No. 2 Trojans Take Down Top-Ranked UCLA In Key MPSF Win|
Nov. 12, 2016
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- In a crosstown rivalry matchup that certainly lived up to its billing, the No. 2 USC men's water polo team put a stop to UCLA's reign at the top of the MPSF and snapped a 57-game win streak held by the Bruins with an epic 8-7 win today in the Trojans' home waters at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. UCLA had a one-goal advantage entering the fourth frame, but the Trojans were undeterred. USC would lock away the victory after goalie McQuin Baron knocked down one last save after a go-ahead goal from Blake Edwards in the final minute, securing a key victory for the Trojans. Now 20-1 overall, USC snakes the top seed for the coming MPSF Tournament as the Trojans look to make a 12th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The intensity of this rivalry clash was clear from the start. USC goalie McQuin Baron started off strong with three early saves to stymie the Bruins, only to see a 5-meter penalty shot from UCLA draw first blood in the game. UCLA would step out to a 2-0 lead next, but USC dug down deep for a response. Grant Stein found fellow junior Lazar Pasuljevic for a searing skipper that got USC on the board six minutes into the contest. USC's defense would come up with the takeaway next, and then Matt Maier hit Zach D'Sa for a sweet shot that leveled things at 2-2. That score would stand for the final minute of the first, bringing up another wild eight minutes to play in the half.
After a quiet first four minutes of the second, USC got back in an offensive groove. On a Trojan power play, Stein struck a big one off a pass from Matteo Morelli to tug the Trojans to their first lead of the game, up 3-2. Two minutes later, Matteo Morelli set up Lachlan Edwards for an alley-oop in from of the cage, as Edwards hammered it home to net USC a 4-2 lead on a four-goal scoring surge. The Bruins would snap over 12 minutes of scoring silence with a 6-on-5 score of their own before the close of the half, making it a 4-3 USC advantage at the break.
The tug-of-war continued in the second half. UCLA got the equalizer on a power play before Pasuljevic plugged in his second goal -- a screamer -- to get USC back on top, up 5-4 with 3:40 left in the third. UCLA would manage its first back-to-back goals since the first frame to snake back the lead, and Bruins would grip a 6-5 lead entering the fourth. There, the Trojans remained resolute in their quest to snap a seven-game losing skid to their rivals. The first step was a nifty series on an early USC 6-on-5. Thomas Dunstan four Blake Edwards, who issued a no-look pass to the post for senior Nick Bell, who made no mistake in ringing up the equalizer for his Trojans. After almost five minutes of a stalemate with the score snarled at 6-6, USC broke through again. Tally another Morelli assist and another Stein strike on a 6-on-5, and USC was up 7-6 with 2:47 remaining. A minute later, UCLA was up on a power play, and the Bruins came through in the clutch to lock things up once more, even at 7-7 with 1:15 on the clock. In the final minute, USC stayed the course. Stein slipped a pass to Blake Edwards on the perimeter, and the captain rifled in the go-ahead goal. Up 8-7 with 38 seconds left, USC's defense had to be up to the task, and it was. Baron made the stop on a final UCLA attempt with 15 ticks to go, and that was it. The USC win was in the books, and UCLA's record win streak was at an end.
All focus now turns to the MPSF Tournament, where an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament goes up for grabs in Westwood. USC takes the top seed to open up with a matchup against No. 4 seeded Stanford at 3 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 18).
#2 USC 8, #1 UCLA 7
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 9, Garrett Danner (UCLA) 10.