Nov. 30, 1997
USC Wins MPSF Water Polo Title and NCAA Bid
LONG BEACH -- The USC men's water polo team entered the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships as the No. 4 seed and in a position where the Trojans needed to win the tournament to advance to the NCAA Championships.
After beating UCLA, Pepperdine and Stanford, the Trojans have done just that and secured a bid for the NCAAs, which begin Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It's the second straight year the Trojans have won the MPSF Tournament.
In Sunday's championship game at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach, the Trojans edged second-seed Stanford, 5-4, to win the tournament. Sophomore 2-meter man James Castle scored two goals and sophomore goalie Richard McEvoy had 10 saves to lead USC.
"We're a young team and we had nothing to lose," USC Coach John Williams said. "This is very special for our two seniors, Mateo Juric and Simun Cimerman. We were able to score early and that was important. It's easier to play from ahead than from behind."
"Last year we were favored and this year we were the underdog," Castle said. "We came in and tried our best. This is unbelievable. We have a really tight group of guys and we really fought together. Somehow we pulled it off."
The Trojans broke out to a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Castle, freshman 2-meter man Sean Hylton and Cimerman all scored on 6-on-5 opportunities.
At halftime, it was 4-1, as Juric hit on a long attempt.
The Cardinal closed the gap to 4-3 after three quarters, but Castle helped put a stop to Stanford's momentum with a two-meter goal at the start of the fourth period. Stanford would pull to within 5-4 with 1:24 to play, but a two-point shot was saved by McEvoy and a last-second attempt was wide.
McEvoy, who had a total of 31 saves in the tournament, could likely have been the tourney's most valuable player if one was named. A native of Pembroke Pines, Fla., he's heading home to play in the NCAA Championships.
"I can't wait," he said. "This is where I've played all my club games growing up so it's pretty much my home pool."
Said Williams: "This weekend was Richard's best performances by far. He struggled a bit two or three weeks ago, but he came back with a big game against UCLA last week and carried it into this tournament."
Earlier in the tournament, the Trojans beat top-ranked Pepperdine, 10-9, and fifth-seeded UCLA, 8-7.