USC Falls In Overtime In NCAA Championship Game|
Dec. 4, 2016
BERKELEY, CALIF. -- The USC men's water polo team saw a two-goal advantage melt away as host California forced today's NCAA Championship bout into overtime. The Bears were the beneficiaries of some big goals in OT, crafting a lead with two goals in the final minute of the first overtime frame and pressing on to finish out an 11-8 victory and claim the 2016 national championship. USC -- in its 12th straight trip to the NCAA title match -- came up short of a possible 10th championship while the Bears claim their 14th men's crown. The Trojans wrap up 2016 with a 24-2 overall record.
USC goalie McQuin Baron collected a career-high 19 saves in the game, starting up with 11 saves in the first half of action to help set a backbone for the Trojan defense. On the scoring front, the Trojans got a pair of goals from James Walters -- USC's only multi-goal scorer in the game. At the end of the game, USC would have five players earn All-Tournament honors. Blake Edwards and Lachlan Edwards were named to the All-Tournament First Team, with McQuin Baron, Nick Bell and Marin Dasic picking up Second Team honors.
The USC defense clamped down on the Bears in the first frame, as McQuin Baron served up some key saves and the field players came through with field blocks and takeaways to silence their hosts. James Walters hauled in a rebound off a Cal save and ripped in the finish to punch up USC's first goal of the game, staking the Trojans to a 1-0 lead with 4:03 on the clock. Less than a minute later, after a turnover forced by senior Nick Bell, sophomore Zach D'Sa laced in a score from the right side and the Trojans held a 2-0 lead that stood through the close of the first frame. Cal would break its silence two minutes into the second quarter, only to see Baron settle back in and continue to pile up saves. The junior goalie would amass 11 save by halftime, while Matteo Morelli capped off a USC power play with a bullet that tugged the Trojans to a 3-1 lead with 1:27 left in the half. Another Baron save and then a steal from D'Sa wrapped the half.
The third frame was a tug-of-war as Cal chopped it to a one-goal game twice, netting the first goal of the frame to make it 3-2. USC would rattle the post twice, but Baron made back-to-back saves to keep USC in gear, and Marin Dasic would find Lachlan Edwards at the post for a jam that made it 4-2 Trojans. Cal would get a skip through next to make it 4-3, but USC had a swift response, striking back just four seconds later. Grant Stein found Thomas Dunstan at the post for a blast that got USC ahead 5-3 with a minute left in the third. That would stand, bringing up an intense fourth period of play. Cal was able to maneuver ahead in the fourth with three straight goals -- the first two on power plays and then a go-ahead blast for a 6-5 edge with 3:22 on the clock. Up to the test, Blake Edwards broke through, hammering home the equalizer at 3:06 to make it 6-6. Again, the Bears edged ahead, scoring from the post to make it 7-6 Cal with 2:57 remaining. About a minute later, USC freshman Matt Maier showed no fear. He'd fake and finish off a searing strike to level it again at 7-7 with 1:40 to go, and after a heated final stretch neither team could get the go-ahead goal.
That sent USC into overtime for the first time this season, and that's where Cal was handed an early gift with a 5-meters penalty shot right out of the gates. The Bears would confer to go up 8-7, but USC followed that up with a rocket from Walters off a pass from Stein to make it 8-8. From there, however, the USC offense would stall out. Cal, meanwhile, would ring up a pair of even scores, landing a back-breaking buzzer-beater at the close of the first OT frame to get a 10-8 advantage. USC created plenty of good looks in the second OT, but was just off the mark on each try. Cal would earn a power play with just seconds left to play, and converted on the easy finish to wrap the game as an 11-8 Cal victory.
2016 NATIONAL COLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 19, Lazar Andric (CAL) 14.