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Bruin Bites: UCLA National Championship #112, College Cup Berth, More

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It was a great weekend for UCLA's Olympic Sports teams. The Men's Water Polo team won the national championship, the Men's Soccer team advanced to the final four, and the Women's Volleyball recorded two sweeps to advance in the NCAA tournament

@uclawaterpolo

UCLA Men's Basketball drew 6,389 to yesterday's game against San Diego. As the line between revenue and non-revenue sports becomes increasingly blurry under Doughnut's reign of error, we turn instead to UCLA's Olympic Sports to review the week that was. And what a week. We'll do this in chronological order.

---On Friday night, the Women's Volleyball team opened NCAA tournament play with a first round match at home against LIU-Brooklyn. This was a rematch of a meeting in the season opening tournament. UCLA swept the match at the end of August. And they swept again on Friday night to advance to the second round. Set scores on Friday were 25-23, 25-19, 25-18. Senior outside hitter Karsta Lowe showed why she is a repeat All-Pac 12 first team honoree, as she had 11 kills and 15 points for the match. Senior middle blocker Zoe Nightingale added 10 kills and 12.5 points, and freshman outside hitter Reily Buechler (daughter of volleyball/basketball star Jud) contributed 10 kills and 10 points. Here is the official recap. Bye, bye Blackbirds (h/t to Give me a B)

---Next up was the Men's Water Polo NCAA Tournament Semifinal match on Saturday afternoon. As the #1 seed, the Bruins faced host UCSD, winners of the WWPA conference tourney. When it comes down to Men's Water Polo, all you need to know is "MPSF rules, every other conference drools." The top three seeds in the tournament were rightfully all from the MPSF. UCLA had whomped on UCSD twice during the regular season. And the third meeting was no different, as UCLA won easily 15-6. The score was 2-1 after one period, 8-3 after two (6 goals in the 2nd period for the Bruins), and 12-4 after three. Senior 2nd team all-conference performer Cristiano Mirarchi led UCLA with a hat trick, and eight other Bruins scored at least one goal each. Sophomore goalkeeper Garrett Danner, 1st team all-conference, had 13 saves, and senior goalkeeper Stephen White was able to cap his collegiate career in front of his hometown fans with an appearance at the end. Here is the official recap.

---Saturday night saw the most improbable Men's Soccer match in UCLA tournament history (please comment if you think there is a better choice, and limit your choices to 1930 or later). The most memorable match before this one, in my mind, was the 1985 National Championship match, which the Bruins won on a golden goal in the 8th overtime. Oh, for the glory days before penalty kick shootouts. But I digress.

On Saturday night, #2 seed UCLA hosted unseeded North Carolina. And when a North Carolina player received a red card in the 20th minute, all looked good for a Bruin victory. So, naturally, because nothing comes easy for this team, UCLA gave up a goal in the 40th minute on a free kick. UCLA trailed 1-0 at the break.

In the 2nd half, the Bruins scored three times in six minutes to take a commanding (or so it seemed) 3-1 lead. The equalizer was scored in the 69th minute by sophomore midfielder Brian Iloski, with assists from freshman forward Abu Danladi and freshman defender Chase Gasper. The Bruins took the lead less than two minutes later, as freshman (note all the freshmen- nice) forward Christian Chavez scored, with assists from sophomore Gage Zerboni and Danladi. The third goal was scored by Danladi (a one-man wrecking crew) on a solo run from midfield.

So with a 3-1 lead and up a man, what did the Bruins do? Let up on the gas pedal. Of course. Whoever has this playbook in Morgan Center, it needs to be torn up. Despite being a man down, North Carolina managed to score twice in 25 seconds (!!) to tie the game 3-3 at the end of regulation. During overtime, the North Carolina goalkeeper came up big, including one totally amazing shot-rebound double save combo to send the game to penalty kicks.

With a 3-1 lead, UCLA managed to put the opponent in the best possible position to win despite being a man down, as the match went to a penalty shootout. And there was no joy in Mudville, as Iloski was stopped on the first penalty shot. The teams then traded four makes (UCLA makes by sophomore midfielder Willie Raygoza, Zerboni, junior forward Larry Ndjock, and 1st team All-Pac 12 and National Player of the Year semifinalist senior midfielder Leo Stolz). As a result,  the shootout was tied 4-4, and North Carolina only needed to convert the 5th penalty shot (after four successive makes) to end UCLA's season. And 1st team All-Pac 12 senior goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. came up with the save of his collegiate career to extend the match.

In the sixth round, junior midfielder Jordan Vale converted, but so did North Carolina. In the seventh round, 1st team All- Pac 12 sophomore defender Michael Amick converted, but so did North Carolina. Doughnut Dan started doing stretches on the sidelines in case we went 20 rounds plus. The Bruins needed to take care of business now, before we faced that dire circumstance. In the eighth round, Gasper converted, and Edwards made his 2nd save of the shootout to send the Bruins on to the College Cup. Here is the official recap.

Just another routine give up three goals with a man advantage, make a save in a do-or-die situation, and make another save to end the match win for the Bruins. Next up is the College Cup in Cary, North Carolina (scene of the Women's National Championship in 2013). The next opponent for UCLA is #11 seed Providence, at 4:30 pm (Pacific) on Friday. The match will be televised on ESPNU, the future home of UCLA basketball. If the Bruins beat Providence, they will face the winner of #16 seed Virginia vs. unseeded UMBC (bonus points if you know what that stands for) at 9 am (Pacific- rise and shine) on Sunday for the national title. UCLA will be going for its 113th national title if the Bruins are in the finals. University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) will be going for its 1st national title if they advance. More trivia- UMBC is in the America East Conference, and the team is the Retrievers. Good dog.

--- After that, we needed a calm match. And the Women's Volleyball team provided same on Saturday night, with a three set sweep of Long Beach State. The set scores were 27-25 (more nail biting), 25-15, 25-14. Karsta Lowe had a monster match with 24 kills and 25.5 points. Sophomore Claire Felix added 10 kills and 14 points. Here is the official recap.

With that, the #12 seeded Bruins advanced to the Sweet 16 in Louisville. And their 1st round opponent is the defending national champion and #5 seed Penn State. Penn State has won five of the last seven national titles (with one of the non-Penn State wins being UCLA's title in 2011). If you want to be the best, you need to beat the best. The match will be Friday at 4 pm (Pacific). If the Bruins can beat Penn State, next up would be the winner of Wisconsin-Ohio State.

---Finally, on Sunday, the Men's Water Polo team faced Southern Cal in La Jolla for the National Championship. The current senior class was in its third national championship final, but lost both times to $C (in 2011 and 2012). This was the fifth meeting of the season (remember MPSF rules, others drool). The teams met twice in regular season tournaments, splitting the two matches. UCLA won the conference matchup at $C. And the Bruins won the 4th matchup, in the 3rd place game at the MPSF tournament, 10-5. But since this was for all the marbles, it was definitely not as easy this time around.

The Bruins took a 2-0 lead at the end of the 1st period, on goals by sophomore defender Chancellor Ramirez and freshman center Matt Farmer. The teams then traded goals twice, with the result being a 4-2 UCLA lead at the end of the 2nd period. The Bruin goals in the 2nd period were scored by tournament MVP junior Danny McClintick and junior attacker David Culpan.

UCLA extended the lead in the 3rd period. After an $C goal, McClintick scored twice from long range (a relative term, as we shall see) to put the Bruins up 6-3. $C scored to make the score 6-4 with six seconds to go in the period. And sophomore attacker Jack Fellner scored from mid-tank, or as was described in the comment thread, from Horton Plaza to put the Bruins up 7-4 with one second left in the 3rd period.

So, three goal lead. Eight minutes to play. What to do next? Of course, let's take the foot off the pedal and see what happens. Again, please destroy all copies of this playbook. $C stormed back to score the first three goals of the 4th period, deadlocking the match with less than four minutes to play for the title. But McClintick scored his fourth (!!) goal of the match to put the Bruins back in front, only to have $C tie the match 8-8 with 2:50 to play. The score remained 8-8 until sophomore center Gordon Marshall put in the winning goal with 34 seconds to play. After a final stop with 10 seconds to play, the Bruins ran out the clock and the party started. NATIONAL CHAMPS.

UCLA finished the season 29-3. The Bruins are NCAA champs for the ninth time since the NCAA tourney started in 1969. This is the first title since 2004, and the first for coach Adam Wright. Congratulations all around. 29 wins, undefeated conference record, four wins over $C. Life is sweet.

What a weekend.  Go Bruins !!