NCAA men's water polo: UCLA, USC advance to championship game

John McGillen

Three Pac-12 squads played in the national semifinals of the NCAA men's water polo tournament Saturday in Los Angeles. It included a bit of conference cannibalism, but here's how UCLA, Cal and USC fared heading into Sunday's championship game.

UCLA

No. 1 UCLA is one game away from its 10th men's water polo championship. Junior goalkeeper Garrett Danner entered the semifinals leading the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation allowing 6.08 goals against him and he continued that domination against UC San Diego with 19 saves and three goals allowed in UCLA's 17-4 victory over the Tritons.

Sophomore Alex Roelse led the 29-0 Bruins with four goals as his team completed 5-of-9 power plays and scored its 17 goals on 30 shots. UCLA will face USC in the NCAA championship game, 6 p.m. PT Sunday at the Spieker Aquatics Center.

USC

No. 3 seed USC (21-6) got only 25 shots to No. 2 seed California's 36, but by converting 6-of-9 power plays the Trojans took advantage of the opportunities to win 9-6. If recent history trends, the Trojans will give the reigning champion Bruins quite a game for the 2015 title on Sunday.

This season, USC lost to UCLA by a 10-9 score on Oct. 11, fell 11-6 on Nov. 15 and then dropped a 6-3 game on Nov. 21.

On Saturday, Blake Edwards led the Trojans with three goals on seven shots, while Mateo Morelli added two more scores. Meanwhile, the game's biggest hero might be goalie McQuin Baron, who made a career-high 19 saves in the semifinal victory.

California

No. 2 seed California (23-7) won't add to its NCAA record 13 water polo titles after falling to USC, but it was another impressive campaign nonetheless. The Golden Bears never fell below fourth place in the national rankings over the course of the 2015 season.

The Bears' future is bright too.

Johnny Hooper leads the team with 70 goals on the year after scoring once against USC on Saturday, while fellow freshman Odysseas Masmanidis has tallied 62 goals. Sophomore Lucas Cupido is the fourth-leading scorer this year so far.

Cal will play UC San Diego in a third-place game Sunday at 4 p.m. PT.

Related: Official bracket (NCAA.com)

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