College water polo: UCLA defeats USC for 11th NCAA title
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for top-seeded UCLA, which lost eight seniors in 2015 and another nine in 2016 to graduation. The Bruins have six true freshmen on their roster playing major minutes and also had a redshirt sophomore goalkeeper playing for the first time as a full-time starter in NCAA competition.
But despite the fact that they were picked to finish fourth by the league coaches, they matured into a strong defensive unit that held the nation's top offensive team in their home pool to just five goals, winning the programs' 11th national title and UCLA's 114th NCAA Championship with a 7-5 win over third-seeded USC on Sunday afternoon at USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The Bruins finished the year at 21-4 while USC dropped to 27-4.
Seniors Alex Roelse and Matt Farmer led the Bruins with a game-high two goals each. Redshirt sophomore Alex Wolf played the entire game in the cage for UCLA, registering 10 saves while allowing just five goals, two on Trojan power plays.
Matteo Morelli scored the first goal of the game for USC on a power play at the 6:42 mark. Marin Dasic made it 2-0 with a goal from the front court (1:51). Freshman Quinten Osborne got the Bruins on the board with a goal at two meters (1:33) to trim the Trojans' lead to 2-1.
WATCH: Championship game highlights
Zach D'Sa scored on a cross-cage shot to open the scoring in the second period (4:37), giving the Trojans a 3-1 advantage. But Roelse scored from the front court with 21 seconds left to cut the lead to 3-2 at the break.
Farmer tied things up at 3-3 (3:33) off a nice feed from Roelse into two meters. But James Walters answered immediately with a goal (3:05) to put USC up 4-3. Senior Max Irving then scored from the front court after an ordinary foul (1:56) to tie the game at 4-4. Roelse then provided his second score of the game and the Bruins' first power play goal to give UCLA its first lead of the game (0:44) at 5-4, ending the scoring in the third.
Blake Edwards tied the game at 5-5 with a power play score (6:47) to open the scoring in the fourth. Farmer then scored a power play goal (6:05) to put the Bruins back in front, 6-5. Both teams made several defensive stops down the stretch. But none was bigger than the Bruins' stop in the final seconds on a Trojan power play. Later, Wolf collected a ball from a Bruin teammate and noticed that USC goalie McQuin Baron was out of the cage on the other end and fired a shot that scored with just two seconds remaining to provide the 7-5 final.
Wolf was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2017 NCAA Championship. Roelse and Irving joined him on the First Team All-Tournament. Farmer and freshman Nicolas Saveljic were named Second Team All-Tournament.