UCLA and USC Advance to NCAA Championship Match

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Dec. 4, 2011

USC Defeats Princeton

BERKELEY, CALIF. - The top-seeded USC men's water polo team put itself in position to make history with a resounding 17-4 semifinal win over Princeton at the 2011 National Collegiate Championships. The Trojans are looking to become the first team in men's water polo history to win four consecutive national championships as they enter tomorrow's 3:12 p.m. title match at Berkeley's Spieker Aquatic Complex against either UCLA or UC San Diego. USC is now 23-3 overall entering the final.

The winners of the last three NCAA crowns, USC is appearing in its seventh consecutive national championship game, with four titles already won in that span entering tomorrow's title match. USC seniors Joel Dennerley, Peter Kurzeka and Matt Burton have been members of the past three championship teams, and although Burton is sidelined by injury for this year's run, the Trojan trio is the backbone of experienced leadership entering this 2011 championship.

UCLA Downs UC San Diego

The No. 2-seed UCLA men's water polo team defeated No. 3-seed UC San Diego, 10-1, in a semifinal match of the NCAA Tournament late Saturday afternoon at California's Spieker Aquatics Center.

UCLA (24-4) will face No. 1-seed USC (23-3) on Sunday at 3 p.m. in the NCAA Championship match. The crosstown rivals went 2-2 against each other this season.

Most recently, UCLA earned a 10-9 victory over USC in sudden-victory overtime in the MPSF Tournament title match last Sunday at UCLA's Spieker Aquatics Center.

Against UC San Diego (17-10) on Saturday afternoon, the Bruins allowed just one goal, its best defensive effort in the NCAA Tournament since 1971, when UCLA downed Long Beach State, 10-1, in a semifinal contest.

"Overall, I thought our defense was good," UCLA head coach Adam Wright said. "We had a lot of opportunities early on and we didn't do a good job finishing, but to hold that team to one goal means we did a good job on defense today."

The Bruins received goals from seven players, with Cullen Hennessy, Bret Lathrope and Griffin Whiteeach totaling two goals. Daniel Lenhart, Brett Hays, Josh Samuels and Paul Reynolds each had one goal.

"With those first games, there are a lot of unknowns," Wright said. "We were at UC San Diego about three and a half weeks ago, and I told our guys that it would be a different game. It takes so much to arrive to this point. And when you get here, there's a little bit of nerves."

UCLA junior goalkeeper Matt Rapacz made three saves in the first three quarters, limiting UCSD to one goal. Sophomore goalkeeper James Hartshorne tallied four stops in the fourth quarter and did not allow any goals.

A closely-contested first half turned toward UCLA's advantage with 1:10 to play before halftime, as UCLA cemented a 4-1 cushion by halftime. The Bruins got on the board with a goal from Hennessy at 4:37 in the first quarter and pushed their lead to 2-0 when White scored on a 6-on-5 opportunity at 5:39 in the second period.

UC San Diego sliced UCLA's advantage in half with a two-meter goal from Matthew Michalko (4:50).

UCLA added two goals in the final 70 seconds of the first half. Lenhart scored at the 1:10 mark, pushing the Bruins cushion to 3-1. Hennessy followed with his second goal, scoring with four seconds left before halftime.

The Bruins put the game out of reach by outscoring the Tritons, 5-0, in the third quarter. Hays found the back of the cage 56 seconds into the period. Lathrope scored back-to-back goals, at 5:54 and 4:33, to send UCLA ahead of UC San Diego, 7-1.

In the final two minutes of the third period, UCLA received goals from White (1:13) and Samuels (0:23). UCLA's final goal of the match came on a successful penalty shot from Reynolds with 6:03 to play in regulation.

UC San Diego goalkeeper David Morton recorded nine saves in the cage.

Earlier on Saturday, USC cruised past Princeton, 17-4, in the tournament's first of two semifinal matches. UCLA and USC will meet for the fifth time this season, as the series is even, 2-2.

"After we lost to USC at home two weeks ago, Adam [Wright] gathered us together and told us that we were going to see them again, as we did last weekend," Samuels said. "Our ultimate goal is to be here and play in the finals, and I wouldn't want it any other way than to be able to play in the championship game against USC."

This weekend, UCLA is making its 28th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. With Saturday's win over UCSD, the Bruins have advanced to the NCAA Championship contest 16 times.

UCLA last played for the NCAA title in 2009, dropping a 6-5 decision to USC at Princeton University.