UCLA, Princeton, Cal, and USC Advance to Semis of NCAA Water Polo Tournament

2023 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship

The 2023 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship kicked off on Friday at the Uystengsu Aquatic Center on the University of Southern California campus. While normally this is a nine-team, single-elimination tournament comprised of seven conference winners and two at-large selections, the Southern California Athletic Conference turned down its automatic qualification. Therefore, there was no play-in match this year; all eight teams began in the quarterfinals.


UCLA 20, Biola 7

From the UCLA press release: No. 3 UCLA (25-2), the 2023 NCAA Championship’s top seed, won every quarter against Biola en route to a 20-7 quarterfinal win on Friday afternoon at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The Bruins improved to 2-0 all-time against the Eagles.

The Bruins had 11 players score in the contest, led by four goals from redshirt sophomore Grant Loth. Six other Bruins, Frederico Jucá Carsalade, Rafael Real Vergara, Gray Carson, Jack Larsen, Wade Sherlock, and Hayden Nightingale each contributed two scores to the Bruins’ blowout victory.

Senior Garret Griggs got the start in the cage and played the first half, picking up three saves while allowing five goals. Senior Bernardo Maurizi came on in relief and played the second half, tallying five saves while surrendering two goals.

The Bruins won the first period, 6-2. After the Eagles scored first (6:38) on a power play, Sherlock netted his first with a man advantage (6:00) to tie the game at 1-1. Redshirt sophomore Eli Liechty scored his only goal with a strong catch and finish at set (5:31) to put the Bruins up 2-1. After Biola tied it up with another power play (4:08), Loth connected from two meters for his first of the game (3:56). That sparked a 4-0 scoring run and the Bruins would never be threatened again. Carson scored his first from the front court (3:16) and Loth followed with his second from two meters (1:44) and the Bruins led 5-2. Senior Hayden Nightingale ended the scoring in the first (0:39) on a nearside skipper.

The Bruins won the second period, 6-3, to take a 12-5 lead into the break. After a goal by the Eagles (7:33), Real Vergara answered with a penalty conversion (6:47) that was drawn by Eli Liechty for his first goal of the contest. After another power play goal for Biola (6:11) made it 7-5, the Bruins scored the last five goals of the period to build a commanding lead. Loth completed his hat trick (5:00) followed by another score from Nightingale (4:18) to put the Bruins up 9-5. Sophomore Noah Rowe would score his lone goal on a power play (3:16) and Jucá Carsalade followed with his first (1:45) from the front court to push the lead to 11-5. Real Vergara ended the scoring in the second period with his second goal (0:48) to make it 12-5 UCLA.

UCLA pitched a 5-0 shutout in the third period to build a 17-5 lead heading into the final stanza. After the Bruins scored the last five goals of the second period, they scored the only five goals of the third and would score the first in the fourth quarter to go on a 11-0 scoring run. Redshirt freshman Ben Larsen scored his only goal of the game (6:34) to open the scoring in the third. Senior Jack Larsen followed with his first score (4:55) and freshman Ben Liechty scored his only goal of the game (2:52) to extend the lead to 15-5. Jack Larsen would follow with a second tally (1:27) and Sherlock would follow suit on a power play at the buzzer (0:00) to end the scoring in the third period.

The Bruins won the fourth quarter, 3-2, to provide the 20-7 final. Carson netted his second of the game (7:11) on a power play to put the Bruins up 18-5. After the Eagles snapped the Bruins’ 11-0 run (6:45), Jucá Carsalade scored his second on a power play (6:06) and Loth registered his fourth of the game (4:35) to put UCLA up 20-6. The Eagles scored the final goal of the game to end the scoring.

Princeton 12, UC Irvine 7

From the Princeton press release: The No. 4 seeded Princeton men’s water polo team took down UC Irvine 12-7 in the first round of the NCAA Championships this afternoon at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Vladan Mitrovic came out hot and scored the first goal of the day at the 6:39 minute mark followed by a Finn LeSieur goal assisted by Mason Killion at 4:48 with an extra attacker. Mason Killion found the back of the net to take a three goal lead for the Tigers in the first.

Tigers led 3-2 at the end of the first.

George Caras dropped a shot in the net, assisted by 14 JP Ohl with an extra attacker at the 7:22 minute mark in the 2nd period. The Tigers once again scored consecutive goals to start the period with Yurian Quinones finding the back of the cage with help from Isaac Rotenberg to extend lead to 5-2.

UCI chipped away at the deficit and scored 2 unanswered goals to cut the Tiger’s lead to one, but goals from Yurian Quinones and Mason Killion put the score at 7-4 going the half. Killion and Quinones both had two goals in the first half.

Vladan Mitrovic, coming out of the break strong once again, beat the goalie and netted his second goal on the day. Finn LeSieur took advanatge of a scoring oppurtunity in the third period and Logan McCarroll went bar down to add another tally to the scoresheet. The Tigers scored three goals while only giving up two and the score was 10-6 following the 3rd period.

During the final period, UC Irvine fought their way back to bring the score within 3 but the Tiger scoring persisted. Vladan Mitrovic fired a shot at the 6:28 minute mark and sealed his hat-trick followed by a Gavin Molloy goal to put away the game with 2:56 left to play.

The Tigers went on to win 12-7.

Cal 16, Fordham 6

From the Cal press release: The No. 2 California men’s water polo team took care of business Friday at Uytengsu Aquatics Center, defeating Fordham 16-6 to advance to the NCAA Semifinals for the fourth straight year.

The Golden Bears (22-5) allowed their fewest goals against a ranked opponent this season, led defensively by goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg who registered 14 saves and an assist. Junior Wyatt Mundelius had a career night on both ends, finishing with game highs of five goals and four steals to go with a field block.

After taking a 5-4 lead behind two first-quarter goals by Nikolaos Papanikolaou, Cal locked Fordham down the rest of the way. The Rams (24-8) were shut out in the second quarter and were held to two goals over the final 26 minutes.

The Bears embarked on a 7-0 run, capped by Papanikolaou’s fourth score of the day with 1:35 to go in the third quarter. About a minute later, Mundelius sealed a third-quarter hat trick.

All five of Mundelius’ goals came in the second half. After William Kelly scored his second of the day early in the fourth, Mundelius put things to bed with two more goals in the closing minutes.

Papanikolaou finished with six drawn exclusions while reaching the four-goal mark for the third time this season.

With two more wins this weekend, Cal can become the first team to win three straight championships three different times. The Bears will face a familiar foe in Saturday’s semifinal round as they take on No. 3 seed and NCAA Championship host USC.

USC 18, San José State 10

From the USC press release:

The top-ranked USC men’s water polo team is through to the NCAA semifinals for the 19th straight season thanks to a solid 18-10 win over San José State in tonight’s quarterfinal round. The No. 3 seeded Trojans, who are hosting this year’s National Collegiate Men’s Water Polo Championship, now turn to take on a familiar foe in No. 2 seed California tomorrow (Dec. 2) in the semis at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Now 16-6 overall, USC utilized 10 different scorers in tonight’s victory over the Spartans.

The Trojans turned a tight first period into a game fully controlled by the hosts. USC trailed early and equalized late in the first frame to snarl things up 3-3 after eight minutes of play. In the second, USC emerged out of a one-goal game and made it a four-goal Trojan advantage with a string of goals from Carson Kranz, Max Miller, and Tom McGuire in the final two minutes of the first half. That had USC up 9-5 for halftime, and the Trojans kept clicking from there. McGuire hammered home his second while Massimo Di Martire and Andrej Grgurevic each had hat tricks in hand by the close of the third. Di Martire’s third of the day marked the grad student’s 100th career goal as a Trojan, while two more Trojans joined the scoresheet in the third frame on blasts from Tony Nardelli and Evan Ausmus. USC gripped a hefty 15-9 lead entering the fourth, where Miller completed his hat trick, and Joshua Waldoch buried his first to make it 17-10. With 2:30 to go, Zach Bettino fed Zac Crenshaw at set for a booming blast that stood as the last of the night to cap off an 18-10 victory for the Trojans.


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About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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