NCAA women's water polo: Stanford wins fourth national title in five years

Stanford defeated UCLA in a hotly contested prize fight to win the 2015 NCAA women’s water polo title on Sunday, while USC edged Cal in the third-place game earlier in the day at Stanford University. Stanford’s win gives the Pac-12 its 475th national championship.

Stanford

Kiley Neushul’s penalty-shot goal with 11 seconds remaining gave Stanford the go-ahead tally in a 7-6 win over UCLA for the 2015 national championship. The officials ruled that UCLA did not have possession when it called timeout after a save by goalkeeper Sami Hill, resulting in the 5-meter penalty shot.

Neither team led by more than one goal in the back-and-forth affair. UCLA led 3-2 after one quarter, but Stanford made it a 4-4 game heading into halftime and led 5-4 after three quarters.

Two-time FINA Women’s Water Polo Player of the Year Maggie Steffens was named tournament MVP. The junior did not score in the title bout but had three assists and two steals against the Bruins. Senior Kiley Neushul had five goals to pace John Tanner’s side, including the game-winner (seen below):

It is Stanford’s fourth national championship in five years and fifth overall. The Cardinal becomes the first women’s water polo team to win the NCAA title in its home tank. There’s also this:

UCLA

Junior Charlotte Pratt scored thrice to lead the Bruins, who fell in the national title game to Stanford for the second year in a row and came up just short of their first national title since 2009. The 2015 MPSF champion went 1-3 against Stanford in 2015, defeating the Cardinal in the championship round of the UCI Invitational. Junior Rachel Fattal finished as the team’s leading scorer in 2015 with 56 goals.

USC

Brigitta Games’ goal with 1:33 remaining in the second extra period lifted USC to a 9-8 overtime victory over Cal in the third-place game. USC trailed 7-5 with five minutes remaining in regulation but got goals from twin sisters Ioanna and Stephania Haralabidis to level the contest. The Trojans went ahead on a Hayley McKelvey strike with 2:29 remaining, but Dora Antal answered for the Golden Bears with 1:10 on the clock to send it to overtime.

Head coach Jovan Vavic got two goals apiece from daughter Monica Vavic and Stephania Haralabidis. Vavic, a senior, finishes her career with an MPSF-record 291 goals. She scored 100 goals as a senior, which ranks second all-time in USC single season history. Sofia Konoukh scored 104 in 2001.

The Trojans have finished in third for the second year in a row after beating the Golden Bears 11-8 in the third-place game last year.

California

Sophomore Hungarian Dora Antal led the Golden Bears with five goals, giving her 69 on the 2015 campaign. Despite a repeat fourth-place finish and 11th consecutive loss to the Trojans, Cal saw improved results down the stretch of the season. The Golden Bears beat Stanford in the MPSF semifinals for their first win over the Cardinal since 2000 and lost in the MPSF championship game to UCLA by just one goal (9-8) before advancing to the NCAA semifinals for the second straight year.

Here are the tournament honors for the Golden Bears:

Continue to check Pac-12.com for more NCAA championships coverage throughout the spring. 

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