USC Wins National Championship In 3-2 Victory Over Stanford
Dec. 4, 2005
There were few secrets left between the USC and Stanford men's water polo teams in their NCAA Championship match on Sunday. The game marked the fifth meeting between the Trojans and the Cardinal this season, and the fourth time the pair had squared off in an NCAA final. This time, the secret seemed to be in both teams' defense, and the low-scoring affair tilted in USC's favor with a 3-2 Trojan victory that capped off USC's season with their third NCAA title and the lowest scoring championship game in NCAA history.
USC finishes the season with a program-best 26-1 record and a record 19-game winning streak. Stanford finishes at 20-7 on the year.
In USC's two previous NCAA championship wins (1998 and 2003), the Trojans downed Stanford in overtime. This time around, however, it was an overtime game without the overtime period. In a match where defense reigned supreme, a stopped gameclock with 18 seconds left in the NCAA men's water polo championship match meant the road to USC's third national championship was just a little longer than originally thought. USC had a 3-2 lead, the ball and a man advantage with 18 seconds left in the game, but the scoreboard stalled out, although time was being kept by officials. Stanford head coach John Vargas registered a protest that was honored by added 18 seconds to the clock to replay the final moments of the game. USC kept control, and the celebration was then officially underway.
Both squads posted staunch stands in the cage, as Stanford goalie Sandy Hohener led the way with 11 saves. USC's Adam Shilling stopped nine shots and was named co-MVP of the tournament along with senior teammate Juraj Zatovic. Zatovic didn't score for the Trojans in the game -- the first time all season he had missed the scoring column for USC -- but was one of the Trojans' key elements in their stubborn defensive stand against the Cardinal.
"I just can't believe that the game came down to just five goals," USC head coach Jovan Vavic said. "I love games like this. I'm very proud of my guys. I think Adam was unbelievable. It was his first NCAA tournament and for him to step up is pretty darn special. And I have him for two more years."
"I knew it would be a defensive game," Shilling said. "I had to be on top of every shot and every block. With guys like Thomas Hopkins and Peter Varellas, it's definitely not easy."
Varellas was responsible for Stanford's tying goal in the first quarter, answering a Juan Delgadillo strike that had give USC the first lead. In the second period, Ted Zepfel put the Trojans up 2-1, and that score stood strong for a long time. Shilling turned away two Stanford 6-on-5 shots to hold USC's lead until early in the fourth frame. Michael Bury scored to tie it at 2-2 with six minutes left.
With three minutes left in regulation, USC earned a man advantage. The teams pulled even, but Pavol Valovic was able to rifle in a score for USC to make it 3-2. Just before the gameclock confusion hit, Stanford took off on an offensive series. Valovic got the steal, however, leading into the late Stanford ejection that occured with the scoreboard stuck at 18 seconds.