Trojans Edge Bruins For Eighth Straight SoCal Title
Oct. 3, 2010
WESTWOOD, CALIF. - The top-ranked USC men's water polo team put a flashy exclamation point on its 15th straight win of the season, serving up a tight 9-8 win over crosstown rival No. 2 UCLA to rack up the Trojans' eighth consecutive SoCal Tournament championship. USC remains undefeated with today's win, held at the Bruins' own Spieker Aquatics Center.
Both goalies went big in the match, but USC's Joel Dennerley made a statement in stopping two 5-meter penalty shots to help USC stay ahead of the Bruins. Still, the game wound up locked up 8-8 in the final minute, until Nikola Vavic ducked past his defender and scored for USC to jump ahead 9-8 with 35 ticks to go. With the Bruins on the hunt to equalize, a slight overpass was sucked in by Dennerley for a takeaway that helped wrap up the win for the Trojans. The matchup with host UCLA was a rematch of both the 2009 NCAA championship as well as this season's NorCal Tournament championship game, both of which the Trojans also won over the Bruins in one-goal decisions.
USC built up a 6-3 lead during the third period thanks to a widespread scoring attach that saw goals from six different Trojans. USC never trailed, but that's only because Dennerley took matters into his own hands during the second frame. With the game tied 1-1 after one period of play, UCLA set up for their first 5-meter penalty shot of the match. But instead of staring at a one-goal deficit, Dennerley slapped away the skipshot attempt, and Peter Kurzeka would go on to nab the steal when UCLA set up for a fresh attack. A minute later, the Trojans were up on a 6-on-5 earned by Jeremy Davie, and Kurzeka found Michael Rosenthal on the left side for a blast that punched USC ahead 2-1. The Trojan lead would grow to 4-1 thanks to more saves from Dennerley, one of which fed into a USC counter in which Tobias Preuss found Kurzeka for a slick lob that put USC ahead 3-1. Brian Boswell kicked into gear next, snagging a UCLA pass on the perimeter and later following up his own shot with a putback for the 4-1 edge. UCLA would make good on a 6-on-5 to end the Trojan scoring run before the end of the half, with USC leading 4-2 at the break.
The Trojans opened the second half with another booming Dennerley save - this one against a backhand attempt from the Bruins out of set. Another save led to a USC counterattack, with Kurzeka feeding Preuss for a blast that made it 5-2 USC. UCLA scored on its next possession with a shot from outside, but a smooth USC 6-on-5 was finished off by Jeremy Davie at the post off a feed from Preuss for a 6-3 USC lead. Again Dennerley put a stop to a tough UCLA opportunity with a slam, and he would come up huge once again against another Bruin 5-meter penalty shot later in the third. UCLA did manage a counterattack score with just two seconds to go in the third, however, closing it to a 6-4 USC lead going into the fourth period of play.
UCLA would not go away in the fourth. Even after USC padded its lead to 7-4 on a sharp passing series that saw Rosenthal hit Preuss and Preuss find Matt Burton for the score with 5:48 on the clock, the Bruins made their move back into the game. An even score was followed by a third 5-meter penalty face-off between UCLA and Dennerley. The third attempt of the game was successful for the Bruins, as UCLA close to 7-6 on the penalty shot with 4:31 on the clock. Preuss rifled in his second goal of the day with 3:07 to go on a USC 6-on-5, only to see UCLA strike from the post with 2:58 remaining, and then get a skipper to go through for the equalizer with 50 seconds left. On the prowl for the go-ahead score, the Trojans composed themselves. Nikola Vavic took the ball at the top, and ducked past his defender for enough space to launch a searing skip to the back of the net for a 9-8 USC edge with 35 seconds on the clock. The Trojan defense interrupted UCLA's answered offensive series, holding USC on top for the big win.
Next up for the streaking Trojans is a visit to Stanford for an MPSF showdown against the No. 4 Cardinal. USC will face Stanford in a 3 p.m. match on Saturday (Oct. 9) at Avery Aquatics Complex.
2010 SoCal Tournament (Westwood, Calif.)
SAVES: Joel Dennerley (USC) 15, James Hartshorne (UCLA) 10.
SAVES: Joel Dennerley (USC) 3, Fraser Bunn (UCSB) 12.