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UCLA Torpedoes the Trojans, Advances to the MPSF Championship - Preview and Game Thread

After an aggressive, bruising semifinal battle between the Bruins and the Trojans, UCLA advances to the MPSF Championship game, beating USC for the third time this season. Meanwhile, in Ojai, UCLA's Catherine Harrison and Terri Fleming vie for Pac-12 singles titles.


Women's Water Polo

Opponent: #4 California (19-6, 3-3)

When: Sunday, April 26, 2:30 PM PDT

Where: Mona Plummer Aquatics Center, Tempe, AZ

Watch Online: ASU Pac-12 Video

Resources: UCLA Press Release

Yesterday, in a thrilling semifinal match against USC, UCLA edged the Trojans to advance to the MPSF Championship game. The Bruins will battle #4 California for the conference tournament title this afternoon.

Yes, you read that right. The Golden Bears pulled off a huge upset against the #1 Stanford Cardinal, winning 8-7. The Cal victory ended a fifteen year winless streak against Stanford.

The Bruins' victory over the Trojans is particularly sweet given the intense, aggressive nature of the contest and the persistent, demonstrative complaining of USC's coach, Jovan Vavic. Vavic came to the pool with a case of whine, and the whine was flowing within a few minutes of the start.

Just three minutes into the match, the Bruins took the lead through Charlotte Pratt. Pratt took a pass from Emily Donohoe and skipped the ball past USC goalkeeper Victoria Chamorro. The UCLA lead was short-lived, however. Barely 80 seconds later, USC's Monica Vavic levelled the score with an unassisted goal that eluded Bruins' goalie Sami Hill. When Vavic converted a five-meter penalty shot with 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter, USC held a 2-1 lead going into the first break.

The Trojans doubled their lead in the opening minute of the second quarter. With USC on the power play, Eike Daube collected a pass from Brianna Daboub and found the back of the net with her shot. With three unanswered goals and a 3-1 lead, the momentum was clearly with Southern Cal.

The Bruins regrouped and Rachel Fattal demonstrated once again why she's an All-American. After nearly three minutes into the second quarter, Fattal rocketed a shot into the back of the net, pulling the Bruins back to within one.

Southern Cal was awarded its second five-meter penalty of the match just 20 seconds later. Stephania Haralabidis converted the penalty to re-establish a two-goal lead for the Trojans, but Fattal answered with a power play goal. And when Alys Williams powered home a goal 82 seconds later, the Bruins had pulled even. At the end of the first half, the score was tied at four.

Rachel Fattal opened the scoring in the second half when the Bruins were awarded a five-meter penalty shot in spite of bellyaching by the Trojan's coach. Emily Donohoe netted the Bruins second of the half soon after to give UCLA a 6-4 lead.

Less than a minute later, Southern Cal struck back. Jennifer Stiefel scored a power play goal for the Trojans to halve the UCLA lead. By the end of the third frame, UCLA was clinging to a 6-5 lead.

A minute and a half into the fourth quarter, the Bruins extended their lead. Rachel Fattal scored again, and for the third time, Kodi Hill collected the assist.

As expected, the Trojans ratcheted up the pressure. A little over 30 seconds after regaining a two-goal margin, UCLA's lead was trimmed to one when Ioanna Haralabidis scored. And after a couple of minutes of physical, aggressive defense by both teams, USC took advantage of Kodi Hill's exclusion to tie the game at 7-7 through a Stephania Haralabidis power play goal.

Once again, the Bruins turned to Rachel Fattal. With 1:27 left in the match, Fattal netted her fifth goal of the game. Holding a one-goal advantage, the Bruins defense stifled the Trojans for the remainder of the game. When USC's Ioanna Haralabidis was penalized with just 25 ticks left on the clock, Fattal slotted home the penalty shot to give UCLA a well-deserved 9-7 triumph over the Trojans.

Rachel Fattal led the Bruins with six goals. Sami Hill was outstanding in goal, tallying 14 saves for the afternoon.

The victory gives the Bruins a hat trick of wins over Southern Cal this season. (According to the official site, the Bruins have four wins against USC this season, however the Bruins' list of results shows only three.) Although it may be premature to speculate on seeding for the NCAA tournament, it seems less likely now that there will be another meeting between UCLA and USC this year. As I wrote yesterday, the outcome of the MPSF tournament has important implications for the NCAA tournament seeding. If UCLA can beat Cal this afternoon, there's a good chance that the Bruins may be able to claim the #1 seed over Stanford for the NCAA tourney.

However, the Bruins need to produce another strong performance today to beat an explosive Cal team. UCLA has played Cal twice this season. In the Stanford Invitational at the end of January, the Bruins came away with a 10-5 victory over the Golden Bears, In a rematch last month, UCLA thumped Cal 10-3.

The key to beating the Golden Bears is shutting down Cal's trio of All-American sophomore drivers. Dora Antal leads Cal in scoring with 57 goals, while Roser Tarrago, and Anna Illes have tallied 45 and 39 goals, respectively. If the Bruins' aggressive defending can throttle the Cal attack as it did in two previous meetings, the Bruins should be able to claim the MPSF tournament title today in Tempe.


Women's Tennis

When: Sunday, April 26, 8:00 AM & 10:00 AM

Where: Libbey Park, Ojai, CA

Watch:  Pac-12 Networks

Live Stats: Pac-12 Live Results

Resources: Official Preview

In yesterday's Pac-12 Championship tournament semifinal, Catherine Harrison gave the Bruins another victory over the Trojans when she defeated USC's Zoë Scandalis. Harrison won the first set 6-1 before Scandalis was forced to withdraw with an injury at 1-1 in the second set.

Harrison has been in terrific form throughout the tourney; she hasn't dropped a set in any of her four tournament matches. She faces a formidable opponent today in the draw's fourth-seed, Cal's Klara Fabikova. Fabikova advanced to the final with a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of the top-seed, Giuliana Oleos of USC. A victory in the final would mark the third straight season in which a Bruin has claimed the Pac-12 Championship singles title.

The Pac-12 is televising the final, so the failure of the Pac-12's "Live Scores" site to provide reliable live scores shouldn't keep Bruins from following the action from Ojai.

In the Pac-12 Invitational Singles tournament, the Bruins will be represented in the final by Terri Fleming. She advanced to the championship match by upsetting teammate Kaitlin Ray in a hard-fought semifinal contest. The final scoreline was 0-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Fleming will need to be at the top of her game again today when she meets the draw's second-seed, Meredith Xepoleas of Southern Cal in an 8:00 AM start at Libbey Park. Xepoleas defeated Joanna Smith of ASU 6-2, 6-2 to reach the final.

As far as I can tell, there is no reliable source for coverage of this match. The Pac-12 doesn't offer its "Live Scores" service for the Pac-12 Invitational tournament, and according to the Pac-12 schedule, there's no televised coverage. Since the UCLA women's tennis twitter account didn't provide updates for days 1-3 of the tourney, it's doubtful that it will be active today. If I can locate a reliable source for match updates, I'll post it here.

Good luck, Catherine and Terri!