Stanford, USC, Pacific, Pepperdine to Battle in Men’s Water Polo Semifinals

The road to the NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship is down to three matches as the final four teams battle in a pair of Saturday semifinal matches.

The four remaining teams are #1 Stanford, #2 USC, #4 Pepperdine and #5 Pacific. Stanford and Pacific both had byes to the semifinals, while USC and Pepperdine won their respective quarterfinal matches on Thursday to advance.

Both semifinal matches and the championship match will be played at Chris Kjeldsen Pool at the Pacific Aquatic Center in Stockton, California.

NCAA Championships
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: #USC vs. #1 Stanford 8 p.m. Live Stats
Semifinal 2: #4 Pepperdine vs. #5 Pacific 10 p.m. Live Stats
Dec. 9 Championship: Winner of Semifinal 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal 2 6 p.m. Live Stats

NCAA History

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.

The Trojans, meanwhile, have scored nine NCAA men’s water polo crowns (1998, 2003, 2005, 2008-2013, 2018) and six runnerup finishes. This marks USC’s 15th straight NCAA semifinal appearance.

Pepperdine is aiming for its first NCAA crown and first finals appearance since 1997. The Waves, which are making their first NCAA appearance since winning the 1997 title, are the only team outside of the MPSF to win the national title since 1989. This marks Pepperdine’s ninth time in the NCAA semifinals.

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.

The Matchups

USC vs. Stanford – 8 p.m. ET, Dec. 7

Live Stats | Live Video

This match is a rematch of the 2018 NCAA Championship title match, which USC won 14-12.

How They Got Here:

The defending NCAA champions from USC went 14-5 and won the MPSF regular season title and #1 seed with a perfect 3-0 mark. They were ranked among the CWPA Top 10 all season, including four weeks at #1 (preseason, Sept. 11, Nov. 13 and Nov. 20).  The Trojans earned their 15th consecutive NCAA appearance by way of an at-large berth after finishing third in the MPSF Tournament.

USC made its way to the NCAA semifinals by besting #10 Bucknell 15-9 on Thursday. Jacob Mercep and Sam Slobodien logged hat tricks to lead 10 different Trojan scorers. After trailing 3-2 early, USC built a 6-3 halftime advantage and never let off the gas en route to the win.

The #1 Cardinal topped #7 Cal 17-11 for their seventh MPSF Tournament crown. Stanford has been ranked atop the CWPA poll in 10 of the 14 polls, including five weeks from Oct. 2 to Oct. 30 and each of the last four.

Previous Meetings: USC won the lone meeting between the teams on November 2 via a 9-8 score.

Common Foes: The Trojans and Cardinal had nine common opponents in 2019: Cal, Long Beach State, Pacific, Pepperdine, Princeton, San Jose State, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA.

USC went 2-1 against Cal, winning 13-12 (Sept. 29) and 14-13 (Nov. 16) before falling 12-9 in the MPSF Tournament (Nov. 23). Stanford won both of its contests vs. the Bears: 15-8 (Nov. 9) and 17-11 (Nov. 24).

Both USC and Stanford registered a pair of victories against Long Beach State. The Trojans won 13-6 (Sept. 19) and 9-6 (Sept. 28), while the Cardinal picked up wins on Sept. 28 (14-13) and Oct. 12 (11-5).

USC lost both of its meetings with Pacific, while Stanford was 2-0 vs. the Tigers. USC lost 16-15 (Sept. 28) and 12-11 (Oct. 12), while Stanford posted wins of 15-14 (Sept. 28) and 11-8 (Oct. 6).

USC lost its match vs. Pepperdine 13-12 (Oct. 19), while Stanford topped the Waves 12-11 (Oct. 27).

Both teams picked up a win over Princeton with USC taking a 14-6 decision (Sept. 27) and Stanford winning 22-8 (Sept. 8).

The Trojans and Cardinal each topped San Jose State, winning 17-9 (Nov. 3) and 16-5 (Sept. 13) respectively.

Both teams logged a win over UC Irvine with USC winning 16-10 (Oct. 5) and Stanford picking up a 16-7 victory (Oct. 13).

UC Santa Barbara managed a victory over both teams. USC fell to the Gauchos 13-9 (Sept. 15), but rebounded with a 10-9 win (Oct. 6). Stanford lost 15-10 to UCSB on Sept. 20.

Against MPSF foe UCLA, USC went 2-0, while Stanford registered three wins over the Bruins. The Trojans won 10-7 (Nov. 9) and 10-6 (Nov. 24) in the MPSF Tournament third place match. The Cardinal won 13-9 (Sept. 29), 17-11 (Nov. 16) and 16-15 in overtime (Nov. 23).

Pepperdine vs. Pacific – 10 p.m. ET, Dec. 7

Live Stats | Live Video

The second semifinal pits a pair of Golden Coast Conference foes. Pacific won the regular season title, while Pepperdine claimed the league tournament crown.

How They Got Here:

The #4 Waves defeated then-#8 Long Beach State 14-12 in the GCC Championship match. Pepperdine was among the Top 8 all season, including three weeks at #5 (Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 20), the #3 spot on Nov. 27 and its current #4 position.

Pepperdine topped #9 UC Davis 15-12 in Thursday’s quarterfinal match. Chris Dilworth scored six times, while Balazs Kosa added four goals as the Waves rallied from down 6-5 for the victory. Pepperdine put together a 4-0 run in the second quarter and added three straight goals in the third, but the game was tied at 12 midway through the fourth quarter. A final 3-0 push care of Dilworth and Sean Ferrari sewed up the win.

Pacific (16-5, 5-0 GCC) was the GCC regular season champions and the #1 seed in the league tournament. The Tigers have been among the CWPA Top 6 all year, including seven weeks (Oct. 2-Nov. 6, Nov. 27) at #3. Pacific fell to Long Beach State (13-12) and UC Santa Barbara (15-10) at the GCC Championships, finishing in third place.

Previous Meetings: The Tigers played host to the Waves on Oct. 26 and picked up a 15-8 win. Pepperdine leads the all-time series 57-33-1, including a 22-9 mark when playing in Stockton.

Common Foes: The Tigers and the Waves shared eight commons foes in 2019: Cal, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, San Jose State, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and USC.

Pacific won its lone meeting with Cal 14-12 (Sept. 15), while Pepperdine split a pair of meetings: falling 9-8 (Sept. 28) and rebounding with a 13-12 overtime win (Oct. 12).

Pacific split meetings with Long Beach State, winning 13-12 (Nov. 1) and falling 13-12 (Nov. 23 at the GCC Tournament). Pepperdine, on the other hand, went 4-0 against the 49ers, winning 10-8 (Sept. 15), 14-10 (Sept. 29), 10-9 (Nov. 9) and 14-12 (Nov. 24) in the GCC Championship match.

The Tigers and Waves each notched wins over Loyola Marymount. Pacific won 19-11 (Sept. 27), while Pepperdine registered victories on Sept. 8 (19-14) and Sept. 14 (15-11).

Pacific went 3-0 against San Jose State, while Pepperdine posted two wins against the Spartans. The Tigers won 16-11 (Sept. 7), 14-12 (Sept. 22) and 13-8 (Nov. 16), while the Waves picked up an 11-8 win (Nov. 2) and a 10-9 decision (Oct. 13).

Both teams bested UC Irvine with Pacific winning 19-9 (Nov. 9) and Pepperdine notchinga  14-10 win (Oct. 18).

Pacific split meetings with UC Santa Barbara, winning 17-16 (Oct. 20) and falling 15-10 (Nov. 24) in the GCC Tournament. Pepperdine played the Gauchos five times, going 2-3: falling 11-5 (Sept. 7), 16-15 overtime (Sept. 19), 14-10 (Sept. 28) and winning 17-10 (Nov. 16) and 10-9 overtime (Nov. 23).

Both teams dropped decisions to UCLA. The Bruins topped the Tigers 14-10 (Oct. 18) and the Waves 14-12 (Sept. 21).

Both teams found victories against USC. Pacific beat the Trojans twice: 16-15 (Sept. 28) and 12-11 (Oct. 12), while Pepperdine won 13-12 (Oct. 19).

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