USC Wins Back-To-Back NCAA Titles!
Dec. 6, 2009
PRINCETON, N.J. - The USC men's water polo team has claimed back-to-back national championships for the first time in program history with a 7-6 win over UCLA in today's NCAA title match. The Trojans had already made history as the first team to make five straight NCAA final appearances, but the team capped the effort with a powerful performance against the Bruins - never trailing in the entire match - to pin up USC's second straight national championship. The win also gives USC's dominating senior class a 100-7 overall record as Trojans, while the 2009 USC squad finishes the year with a 26-2 mark.
"It was 100 percent a team effort," USC head coach Jovan Vavic said. "We never gave up; we just kept fighting. It's special because it's the first [NCAA championship] ever against the Bruins. All our championships in the past were against Stanford. And this one is really very special."
Coincidentally, USC's 2008 NCAA championship victory also marked the 100th career win for last year's USC senior class. The 2009 USC seniors, however, are 10 members strong, and today's title match saw five USC goals come from the hands of Trojan seniors. J.W. Krumpholz scored in his fourth straight NCAA title match in the win, while Shea Buckner and Matt Sagehorn also tallied scores in their final match as Trojans. But arguably the most powerful senior performance of the day came from Jordan Thompson, who scooped in two huge goals for USC to work his way toward honors as the NCAA Tournament MVP. Buckner and Krumpholz also secured spots on that NCAA All-Tournament First Team, and Sagehorn was named to the Second Team.
With all the focus on USC's senior strength, it was sophomore Peter Kurzeka who drew first blood for the Trojans. Behind a pair of goals from Kurzeka and 12 saves from sophomore goalie Joel Dennerley, USC had a well-balanced recipe for success in the match. Down the stretch, it was USC's stubborn defense - best in the nation for the fifth straight season - that kept the Trojans at least a step ahead throughout. USC defenders threw up field blocks on perimeter tries and crashed UCLA opportunities at two-meters. The Bruins were awarded 10 power play chances in the game to just three for the Trojans, but USC would not be deterred. The Trojans put a stop to two UCLA 6-on-5 chances in the first period while USC rang up a three-goal lead. A Krumpholz field block was sucked in by Dennerley to send USC off on an early counterattack, and Kurzeka came up with the finish on crosscage slice to take USC ahead 1-0. Justin Rappel set up Thompson at set, and Thompson earned a 5-meter penalty shot for Buckner to deposit in the back of the net to make it 2-0 USC. More USC defensive stands kept the Bruins silent in the quarter, while Krumpholz blasted one from the post for a 3-0 USC lead going into the second period.
UCLA would go up on four 6-on-5 advantages in the second frame, netting the first two around a Thompson score off a rebound to put the Bruins on the board, down 4-2. UCLA got up again for the final look of the half, and Griffin White finished it off with a crosscage score with just a second to go in the half, making it a slim 4-3 USC advantage to bring up the next half of action.
USC would earn its first 6-on-5 of the game to open the third, but a UCLA field block squelched the chance. USC came right back, however, with Matt Burton putting the ball in for Thompson at two-meters. Thompson got to the ball and, semi-submerged, ripped in a hook shot that went through to make it 5-3 USC. Buckner came up with a huge steal on UCLA's next possession to send the Trojans back on the attack. Rappel slipped the ball in for Thompson, who popped the ball back out to Kurzeka on the left side. The sophomore faked and launched, blazing in a skipper to carry USC back to a three-goal lead, up 6-3 at 3:27. Once again, however, UCLA would make a move to close in. A Jacob Murphy score on another Bruin 6-on-5 made it 6-4 soon after, and then Ben Hohl got a skip shot to go with 7 seconds left in the period, pushing the teams into the fourth with USC holding a 6-5 edge.
USC missed on its second 6-on-5 chance of the game, but the Trojan defense flexed its muscle next to put a stop to back-to-back UCLA power plays. At 3:47, Sagehorn rocked a huge goal for the Trojans, punching one in for a powerful lift as USC went ahead 7-5. UCLA's Hohl managed to cut in again on an even score at 2:13, pulling it back to a one-goal game at 7-6, but the USC defense reigned supreme. The Trojans got a takeaway at set with about 45 seconds to go, and although USC's next offensive series came up empty, UCLA was unable to equalize in the remaining 15 seconds as the Trojans closed out the 7-6 victory.
"Our guys did it. They absolutely did a great job. They were prepared and that was really the key," Vavic said. "When we needed to make stops on 5-on-6, we made big stops. Jordan Thompson came up absolutely huge for us. And Sagehorn's goal at the end - unbelievable."
This was USC's 24th NCAA appearance and fifth national championship. USC's past four NCAA titles came in wins over Stanford, and this was USC's second time facing UCLA in an NCAA title match. The Bruins had beaten USC 8-7 in the 1996 national championship game. USC's 2009 men's water polo NCAA title is the 111th overall national championship won by the university and 89th men's national championship for the Trojans.
2009 NCAA Championship (Princeton, N.J.)
USC 7, UCLA 6
SAVES: Joel Dennerley (USC) 12, Chay Lapin (UCLA) 7.