The NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship title match is set.
#1 Stanford defeated #2 USC 15-14 on a golden goal to claim its spot in Sunday’s championship match, while #5 Pacific edged #4 Pepperdine 17-13 in the other semifinal on Saturday.
The Cardinal and the Tigers will meet at 6 p.m. ET Sunday with the title on the line at Chris Kjeldsen Pool in Stockton, California. Stanford will be looking for its 11th NCAA crown and first since 2002, while host Pacific is aiming for its first title.
Stanford defeated Pacific twice during the regular season, 15-14 on September 28 and 11-8 on October 6.
Stanford has 10 NCAA titles to its credit (1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1993, 1994, 2001, 2002) and been the runnerup 11 times. The Cardinal lost 14-12 to USC in the 2018 championship match.
Pacific made its lone appearance in the NCAA title match in 2013, falling to USC 12-11 in double overtime. The Tigers made the semifinals in 2017.
|Nov. 30||#12 Bucknell def. #9 Harvard 13-12|
|Dec. 5||#2 USC def. #10 Bucknell 15-9||4 p.m.||Watch||Live Stats|
|#4 Pepperdine def. #9 UC Davis 15-12||5:45 p.m.||Watch||Live Stats|
|Dec. 7||Semifinal 1: #1 Stanford def. #2 USC 15-14 SD||8 p.m.||NCAA.com||Live Stats|
|Semifinal 2: #5 Pacific def. #4 Pepperdine 17-13||10 p.m.||NCAA.com||Live Stats|
|Dec. 9||Championship: #1 Stanford vs. #5 Pacific||6 p.m.||NCAA.com||Live Stats|
Semifinal 1: #1 Stanford def. #2 USC 15-14 SD
Stanford boasted a 7-6 halftime lead and led 12-8 with 5:25 remaining, before USC mounted a comeback to force overtime. The Trojans scored in the first overtime and the Cardinal answered in the second, pushing the match to sudden death.
Ben Hallock put in the game winner with 2:49 to play in the third extra session to move Stanford into the national championship match.
Stanford made 15 of its 38 shots, including 4 of 14 on powerplays and 1 of 2 on penalty tries. USC was 14 of 37 overall and 5 of 9 on powerplays.
Stanford scored first in the match on a Tyler Abramson goal just 15 seconds in, only to see USC surge ahead 2-1 over the next minute and 13 seconds care of Jacob Mercep (7:21) and Sam Slobodien (6:32). The Cardinal tied it up at 2, 3 and 4 thanks to Ben Hallock (3:32), Dylan Woodhead (2:17) and Quinn Woodhead (0:02).
The back and forth battle continued in the second period. Abramson game Stanford a 5-4 lead (5:06), but Marcus Longton cashed in on a powerplay (4:30) to make it 5-all. Longton added another score a minute later to put the Trojans back on top 6-5 (3:06). Abramson put in the final two goals of the half on a penalty (2:54) and a powerplay (0:20).
The Cardinal boosted their lead to four at 10-6 with three scores to start the third quarter. Hallock (7:44), Quinn Woodhead (5:31) and Bennett Williams (powerplay 3:35) did the honors. Mercep stopped the rally with a powerplay score (3:24), but Hallock made it 11-7 a minute later (2:38). Mercep again countered on a powerplay (2:08) to pull USC within three.
The Trojans trailed 12-8 with 5:25 to play after a Quinn Woodhead powerplay goal (5:25). USC chipped away with even strength goals by Matt Maier (4:12) and Daube (3:37). A Quinn Woodhead powerplay had Stanford up three (13-10) with 2:14 to go. Mercep cut the margin to one with a pair of scores (1:51, 0:56). A Luke Wyatt powerplay goal with one second left sent the game to overtime.
USC carried the momentum into overtime, first seeing goalkeeper Nic Porter come up big with a pentalty save (0:54) then care of a Dasic goal (0:42), which gave the Trojans their first lead since 6-5. Trojan head coach Marko Pintaric picked up his second yellow card of the match, equaling a red card, in the period.
Stanford had two shots saved in the second overtime, before Quinn Woodhead found the back of the net with 19 seconds left.
In sudden death, Dasic won the opening sprint and Stanford called timeout. Eleven seconds later, the Cardinal were celebrating a return to the NCAA title match for the second straight year and 22nd time overall care of the Hanson putaway (2:49).
Mercep scored five times to lead USC. Quinn Woodhead notched five goals for Stanford, followed by Abramson’s four and Hallock’s hat trick.
Semifinal 2: #5 Pacific def. #4 Pepperdine 17-13
Pepperdine boasted the early advantage, but a 14-9 onslaught over the final three periods secured Pacific its first shot at an NCAA water polo crown since 2013.
Luke Pavillard paced Pacific with five goals and Djordje Stanic added a hat trick as eight players scored for the Tigers. Joey Macleane registered 11 saves in the cage in the winning effort.
Balazs Kosa logged a hat trick and six other players chipped in goals for Pepperdine. Goalkeeper John Claude Marco made seven stops for the Waves.
Pacific made good on all four of its penalty shots and cashed in on 17 of 33 shots, while Pepperdine was 13 of 36 overall and 2-for-2 on penalties.
Trailing 4-3 after the first quarter, the Tigers put in five goals each in the second and third stanzas to build a 13-8 advantage. Pepperdine managed five goals in the fourth quarter, but could not break through as Pacific turned in four scores in the final stanza.
A Kosa penalty (5:36) marked the game’s first score, but Stanic tied it up for Pacific a minute later (4:30). A Jake Gordon powerplay (3:58) and an even strength goal by Kosa (3:23) had Pepperdine up 3-1. Pavillard sunk a penalty (3:09), but Chris Dilworth replied shortly thereafter (2:52). Stanic buried a penalty with 2:39 to pull Pacific back within one. The defenses held after that with Pepperdine missing three shots and Pacific having two shots blocked.
Jeremie Cote leveled the score at 4 on a penalty with 5:09 to go in the third. Pavillard (4:25) put Pacific up 5-4, but Curtis Jarvis made good on a powerplay (2:46) to tie it up. Matthew Hosmer (2:31), Cote (1:43), and Luis Araya (powerplay 0:51) gave the Tigers some cushion to end the period.
Pavillard poured on another goal to put Pacific ahead by four (9-5) just 38 seconds into the third quarter. Jarvis (5:39) and Sean Ferrari (5:03) narrowed the gap for Pepperdine, but the team gave up another penalty at the 4:43 mark ,this one to Araya. Ferrari got the goal back 23 seconds later (4:20), but Pavillard struck twice (3:32, 3:01) and Andrea De Nardi snuck in a third goal with 16 seconds left to give Pacific a 13-8 advantage.
De Nardi capitalized on a powerplay with 7:06 left in the game, giving the Tigers a 14-8 lead. Kosa put in a penalty shot (6:44) and Sean Thomas scored on a powerplay (5:57), but a Stanic score (5:28) and a powerplay by Eli Lule (3:20) had Pepperdine staring down a seven-goal deficit (17-10).
George Mooney began the Waves’ comeback at 1:34. Thomas added a goal with 57 seconds left and Mooney scored one more time with two seconds to go, but it was not enough.