UCLA Men's Water Polo - 2015 MPSF Tournament Championship Game
Opponent: #3 California (23-5, 7-2)
When: 4:30 PM PST, Sunday, November 22, 2015
Where: Uytengsu Aquatics Center, Los Angeles, CA
Video: USC Live Stream
Live Stats: The Fosh
Beat $C week officially started yesterday when the Bruins wrapped up their 17-9 victory over the Utes. But UCLA Men's Water Polo celebrated Beat $C week before the final play in Salt Lake City by sinking the Trojans 6-3 in the semifinals of the MPSF Tournament. Southern Cal's loss means that its season is over aside from an MPSF Tournament consolation game. The foutth-place Trojans will not receive an NCAA Tournament invitation this year.
Although the Bruins offense struggled to find the back of the net, UCLA's defense was outstanding, holding the Trojans scoreless for nearly three quarters. By then the Bruins had built a 6-0 lead, which allowed the Bruins to work the clock in the final quarter.
Daniel McClintick proved himself a big game player last season, and he did again yesterday with a hat trick. Ryder Roberts scored a brace, and Alex Roelse scored the Bruins' final goal when he converted a penalty.
As good as the UCLA defense was, All-American goalkeeper Garrett Danner made several big saves, including a save of a penalty shot. That save was the 720th of Danner's career and set a new UCLA record. It was one of 11 saves for Danner, to go along with three steals and three assists.
#3 California (23-5, 7-2) defeated #2 Pacific 7-5 in the other semifinal to set up the fourth meeting of the year between the #1 Bruins (27-0, 9-0) and the Golden Bears. In their first encounter, UCLA beat Cal 8-6 in the semifinals of the Kap7 NorCal Invitational. In their second meeting, the Bruins won 13-8 in the Kap7 SoCal Invitational semifinals. In the third match between the two teams, Cal raced out to an early 3-0 lead before the Bruins fought back to edge the Golden Bears 8-7.
Cal is a high-scoring team. It ranks third in the conference in scoring at 14.27 goals per game, just ahead of the Bruins and their 13.84 goals per game scoring average. Defensively, UCLA leads the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 5.24 goals/game, while the Golden Bears concede 7.88 goals/game, roughly two and a half goals more per game than UCLA.
Cal's offense is led by freshman Johnny Hooper and his 65 goals. Freshman Odysseas Masmanidis is second on the team with 56 goals, and senior Colin Mulcahy is third with 47 goals. UCLA's leading scorers are junior Ryder Roberts (49 goals), junior Patrick Fellner (33 goals), and sophomore Max Irving (38 goals). UCLA's Garrett Danner leads the MPSF in goals against average (5.98 goals/game) while Cal's Lazar Andric is sixth at 8.36 goals/game.
Today's MPSF Tournament championship game may very well be a preview of the NCAA Tournament final. Although it's very difficult to watch collegiate water polo from overseas, I've seen all of the top-5 nationally ranked teams play at least once, and Cal impresses me as the best of the bunch behind UCLA.
As I've mentioned in each MPSF Tournament preview this week, more than half of UCLA's 27 wins are against top-10 teams, and a third are against top-5 teams. That's an phenomenal achievement which shows how strong, deep and focused Coach Adam Wright's Bruins are. Today's game will undoubtedly be a challenge for the Bruins, but it's a challenge for which the Bruins are well-prepared and well-equipped.