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UCLA Women’s Water Polo Battles Stanford for the MPSF Tournament Title

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The Bruins needed two second half rallies to defeat Cal 9-8 in yesterday's MPSF Tournament semifinal.

@UCLAWaterPolo

#1 UCLA Women’s Water Polo (21-1)

Opponent: Stanford (1-1)

When: 2:30 PM PT, Sunday, April 30, 2017

Where: Spieker Aquatics Center, Los Angeles, CA

Audio: None

Live Stream: FloSwimming ($)

Live Stats: None

Official Tournament PreviewMPSF Women's Water Polo Tournament Central

Top-ranked UCLA will square off with #2 Stanford today in the championship game of the MPSF Tournament. For those who can't attend the contest at Spieker Aquatics Center but want to follow the action, the only option other than following @UCLAWaterPolo on Twitter is to purchase a FloSwimming subscription.

It's a shame that this is the state of collegiate women's water polo. Pay-per-view strikes me as a poor model for an amateur sport with a small fanbase that desperately needs to bring in young viewers. Furthermore, it seems short-sighted to make game stats available as postgame scoresheet photos rather than making available a live digital stat service. If the MPSF is determined to go throwback this season, why not send mimeographed copies of the scoresheet by mail?

Although it may be a coincidence, since UCLA is hosting the tournament this year, I'm left to wonder what role if any Dan Guerrero played in the absence of the live stats platform that has been available in previous years. Given that a substantial number of UCLA's national championships have been in water polo under Guerrero's watch, it would have made sense to go the extra mile as hosts of this year's tournament. That assumes, of course, that Dan Guerrero took any interest in the event and carries any weight in the MPSF.

So aside from the fact that fewer UCLA fans will watch and/or follow today's championship game because of the expense and needless difficulty, today's final promises to be a terrific end to the 2017 MPSF campaign and a possible preview of the NCAA Tournament final. The Bruins and the Cardinal are the top two teams in the nation, and their single previous encounter this season was a thrilling contest in which the Bruins held on down the stretch to claim a huge 10-9 win away from home.

UCLA has the home pool advantage this time around. However, it's easy to overestimate the value of playing at home in a tournament competition. After beating Cal handily a month ago, the Bruins struggled to get past the Golden Bears yesterday. Despite jumping to an early two-goal lead courtesy of goals by Alys Williams and Kodi Hill, the Bruins and the Bears were tied at 3-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter unfolded much the same. UCLA got a trio of early goals with Rachel Fattal scoring a pair and Mackenzie Barr adding one of her own. The Bears scored a couple of late goals to trim the Bruins' lead to 6-5 going into halftime.

Cal played a terrific third quarter, shutting down UCLA's attack for most of the period while notching two goals to take its first lead of the game at 8-7. The Bruins Maddie Musselman converted a penalty shot at the 1:40 mark to even the score, but Cal scored its third of the quarter to take an 8-7 lead into the fourth.

Both defenses took over in the final frame, but Maddie Musselman finally found the back of the net with a little over three minutes left. It was Musselman's third goal of the contest.

Forty seconds later, Bronte Halligan tallied the game-winner, giving UCLA a 9-8 edge. Fattal produced an important field block on a late Cal power play to seal the victory.

The victory extended UCLA's winning streak to 11 games.

Stanford had a tough time against Southern Cal in the other semifinal. In a defensive battle, the Cardinal edged the Trojans 6-5 to set up today's showdown with the Bruins.

This is as good as it gets: #1 vs #2 for the conference tournament championship. If the Bruins are at their best, the championship will be theirs.

Go BRUINS!