No. 1 USC Beats No. 2 UCLA To Complete Undefeated Regular Season
Nov. 17, 2012
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The top-ranked USC men's water polo team topped off its third undefeated regular season finish in program history with a 10-9 win over crosstown rival No. 2 UCLA tonight at McDonald's Swim Stadium. Senior Michael Rosenthal ripped in three huge goals for the Trojans to keep USC on pace to victory in its MPSF finale, which takes USC to a 24-0 overall record and a perfect 8-0 mark in MPSF play to secure the top seed for the Trojans in next week's MPSF Tournament. USC will finish out the year as host for both the MPSF Tournament (Nov. 23-25) and the NCAA Tournament (Dec. 1-2), where the Trojans are aiming to win a fifth consecutive national championship.
But before the postseason gets underway, USC had some serious business to take care of tonight against the rival Bruins. As the only two undefeated teams in MPSF play, today's match was the clincher for the top seed in the coming conference tourney. The pivotal nature of the game was clear from the start, as the teams tangled in driving rain throughout much of the match. The Bruins would take slim one-goal leads early the first period, but the Trojans were sparked by Michael Rosenthal's scoring effort. He'd plug in a pair in the first frame, including the go-ahead goal that made it 3-2 after Zach Lucas had delivered a 6-on-5 equalizer for the Trojans.
Rosenthal's panache for pulling the Trojans into the lead would come in handy late in the game, too. It was his bullet with 2:16 to go in regulation that broke a late tie and put USC ahead 9-8. Mace Rapsey's second of the day would be the decider as he struck with 31 ticks to go for a two-goal USC lead that would prove crucial after the Bruins managed one three seconds later. Up 10-9 with 28 seconds left, though, the Trojans could keep control of the ball for the final stretch as USC outlasted UCLA for the win.
After a tight first frame, USC worked out ahead of the Bruins, leading by as much as three goals when Nikola Vavic sliced in his second of the game to open the second half of play. That 7-4 lead didn't last long, however. While UCLA goalie Matt Rapacz was turning away numerous Trojan shots, UCLA received back-to-back goals from Paul Reynolds to get the Bruin to a hat trick, and then found the equalizer with 2:06 left in the third, locking it up 7-7 on Griffin White's score. USC put a stop to the three-goal surge when Vavic slipped a pass for Matt Burton, and USC was back on top, up 8-7 as the teams got ready for the fourth.
That set up a tense final period of play, where UCLA again pulled even with a goal at the 2:46 mark from Chris Wendt. It took all of 30 seconds for USC to bump back ahead, though, on Rosenthal's third of the night. And after a UCLA miss wide of the cage, USC worked to take control of the clock. Rosenthal found Rapsey for a cross cage laser, and USC had the winning edge to round out the regular season at a perfect 24-0.
USC last finished a complete season undefeated in 2008 (29-0) and went undefeated in the regular season in 2006 before taking a loss to Cal in the MPSF final and the NCAA final (finished 26-2 overall).
The Trojans are now locked in as the top seed for the 2012 MPSF Tournament, which runs Nov. 23-25 at McDonald's Swim Stadium. USC will open up against No. 8 seeded UC Santa Barbara in a 10 a.m. match on Friday (Nov. 23) to play for a Saturday semifinal spot.
#1 USC 10, #2 UCLA 9
SAVES: James Clark (USC) 7, Matt Rapacz (UCLA) 12.