If you only watched the first half, you might have thought that Stanford cruised to an easy win over UCLA this evening in the NCAA Women’s Water Polo Semifinals.
You would be wrong.
That’s because the Bruins mounted what should be called an epic comeback.
The first quarter totally belonged to the Cardinal. Stanford scored four goals in the first quarter while holding UCLA scoreless and the Bruins trailed 4-0 after one.
Stanford made it 5-0 with the first goal of the second quarter with 3:35 left in the first half. In the next 21 seconds the tide turned completely. UCLA finally got on the scoreboard when Rachel Whitelegge scored on a powerplay and the Bruins added another powerplay goal before the end of the half when Roxy Wheaton scored with 14 seconds left.
UCLA was able to maintain their momentum in the third quarter. Val Ayala cut the deficit to 5-3 with 6:34 left in the third and Maddie Musselman sliced that lead in half with 5:03 to go. Lexi Liebowitz finished the comeback when she tied the game 5-5 with 3:55 left in the quarter and that’s how the game went into the fourth quarter.
It stayed tied until there was 4:11 left. That’s when Musselman netted the go-ahead goal on a Bruin powerplay and it looked like UCLA might actually win the game and advance to tomorrow’s championship game against crosstown rival Southern Cal.
But, none of us here at Bruins Nation gets to write scripts for how games should end and Stanford managed to tie that game back up with just 2:49 to go. Neither team was able to score in the time remaining, but what was especially disappointing is the fact that UCLA’s final possession in regulation ended with a shot clock violation instead of a shot attempt.
In water polo, overtime is played in two extra three minutes periods. Stanford scored twice in the first overtime to go up, 8-6, and that’s how the game went into the second overtime. Finally, with just 57 seconds left in the second overtime, Lexi Liebowitz scored her second goal of the game to make it, 8-7, Stanford. But, that was all that UCLA could muster and the Cardinal will play for the national championship tomorrow.
It would have been easy for the Bruins to throw in the towel when the score of the game was 5-0, Stanford, but the team showed enough heart to mount an epic comeback and even take the lead late in the game. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t prevent the game-tying goal in the fourth quarter and they couldn’t generate enough offense in overtime. That’s what ultimately cost them this one.