Trojans To Play For Third Place At MPSF Tournament|
Nov. 22, 2014
LONG BEACH, CALIF. -- The No. 3 USC men's water polo team was denied a chance to go for a third straight MPSF Tournament title today when No. 2 Stanford made a successful final push to a 7-4 victory at the MPSF semifinals at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center in Long Beach. The Trojans and the Cardinal were locked up 4-4 entering the final period of play, and it was Stanford that found the winning groove. The loss puts USC at 22-5 overall as the Trojans now go up against top-seeded rival UCLA tomorrow (Nov. 23) at 1:30 p.m. to fight for third place in the tourney. That game could have some serious NCAA implications, as the Trojans look to create some winning momentum in order to have a chance at defending their six consecutive national championships.
Up against Stanford for just the second time this season, USC was aiming to avenge a loss to the Cardinal taken last month in Palo Alto. Today's semifinal bout was a defensive battle, with both goalies going big for their respective defenses. USC's defense in the field also proved stubborn, as the Trojans made field blocks and nabbed steals to keep giving themselves offensive opportunities. Early saves from USC goalie McQuin Baron helped push USC onto the attack, and the Trojans earned the power play. Drawing first blood in the game was senior Rex Butler, who ripped in a crosscage strikes on the 6-on-5 advantage to take a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game. Stanford would equalize just before the end of the period, however, making it 1-1 to bring up the second period.
Two minutes into the second, Stanford earned the power play and converted to nudge ahead 2-1 on a goal from Alex Bowen. Bowen would blast another other with a backhand bar-in strike at 1:51, and USC was in a 3-1 hole. That's when Butler stepped up once more. As the teams pulled even on a USC power play, Butler unleashed another left-handed rocket, and it was a one-goal game by halftime, with USC down 3-2.
Again, Stanford would sneak ahead, this time on a counterattack that lifted the Cardinal up 4-2 at 6:15. Now it was another senior who stood up to shoulder the scoring load for the Trojans. Marc Vonderweidt would go on a solo mission in the next four minutes. He ripped in his first to make it 4-3, then intercepted at the other end to get USC back on the attack. On the ensuing possession, Vonderweidt rattled the ball around the back of the cage for the equalizer, leveling it at 4-4 with 2:36 on the clock in the third. Another huge stop from Baron would hold that score up, and the teams entered the final eight minutes of action snarled at 4-4.
Stanford struck on a power play to open the frame, lifting the Cardinal back into the lead. USC would misfire on its next three 6-on-5 chances, only to see Stanford's Bowen make the most of back-to-back counterattack feeds from the defensive stops. Bowen's third and fourth goals of the game put USC in a 7-4 hole with 2:41 to go, and it just wasn't in the cards for the Trojans the rest of the way. Unable to strike back, USC would take the 7-4 loss to move into tomorrow's third place game against UCLA, while Stanford will face host Long Beach State in the title match to play for the automatic berth into the coming NCAA Tournament. The MPSF is likely to receive two at-large berths into the tournament as well, but the recipients of those slots will not be decided until Sunday night.
USC and UCLA will face off tomorrow (Nov. 23) at 1:30 p.m. in the MPSF third-place game at Long Beach State's Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center.
2014 MPSF TOURNAMENT - Ken Lindren Aquatics Center (Long Beach, Calif.)
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 12, Drew Holland (STAN) 16.