UCLA Men's Water Polo - 2015 MPSF Tournament Semifinal
Opponent: #4 Southern Cal (19-5, 6-3)
When: 2:30 PM PST, Saturday, November 21, 2015
Where: Uytengsu Aquatics Center, Los Angeles, CA
Video: USC Live Stream
Live Stats: The Fosh
Less than a week ago, the Bruins closed out the regular season by throttling #4 USC 11-6. It was a game that showed the progress of both programs since UCLA edged USC by a single goal in last season's NCAA Championship game. And then there's this: win or lose today, the top-ranked Bruins will earn an NCAA Tournament berth, but the Trojans will likely miss the NCAA Tournament this season unless they win the MPSF Tournament.
The Trojans needed overtime against #5 Stanford yesterday to win their quarterfinal, 7-6. Meanwhile the Bruins enjoyed a relatively easy path to today's semifinal, cruising to a 12-7 victory over #8 Long Beach State. #3 California plays #2 Pacific in the second of today's semifinals.
UCLA has certainly played better this season than it did yesterday against the 49ers. The Bruins took an 8-3 lead into the halftime break, but then seemed perfectly content to trade goals with Long Beach the rest of the way. Max Irving was the high scorer for the Bruins with three goals, and Ryder Roberts, Daniel McClintick, Patrick Fellner, and Anthony Daboub each scored a brace. Garrett Danner registered a dozen saves.
When UCLA and USC met last week, the Trojans jumped out to an early two-goal lead before the Bruins woke up and scored seven unanswered goals. Southern Cal didn't score again until the third period, but UCLA responded with three more goals to shut down any possibility of a Trojan comeback. In fact, the Bruins spent most of the fourth quarter playing keep away to kill the clock.
Goalkeeper Garrett Danner had a phenomenal game with a career-best 19 saves and Ryder Roberts had a hat trick.
It's terribly unlikely that the Bruins will have such an easy time of it in today's rematch. The Trojans are far better than they showed last week, and they'll have the advantage of playing in their home pool this afternoon. Considering the fact that the Trojans' season will end with a loss (discounting MPSF consolation games), I expect to see SC take a very aggressive approach against the Bruins. Or perhaps I should write, expect to see the Trojans take an even more aggressive approach than usual against UCLA.
As I mentioned in yesterday's preview, the 2015 Bruins are a very special team. Not only are they undefeated, over half of their wins are against top-10 opponents. The Bruins have plenty of big game experience, and they have already played and defeated teams currently ranked in the top-5 eight times. The Trojans will undoubtedly employ tactics to try to disrupt the Bruins' focus, but with the way Coach Wright's squad has played this season, I expect the Bruins to be prepared and locked in from the outset.
Go BRUINS! Beat $C!