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Men's Water Polo Beats USC for NCAA Championship

Mar 21, 2021
(Photo: Catharyn Hayne)

Box Score | Boxscore

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LOS ANGELES -- No. 3 UCLA (9-7) captured its 12th NCAA Championship in men's water polo with a 7-6 win at No. 4 USC (8-9) on Sunday afternoon at USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The win also marked the 119th NCAA Championship for the UCLA Athletic Department.

It was a balanced scoring effort by the Bruins, who received goals from six different players. Junior Jake Cavano, who was named to the first team All-NCAA Tournament, scored two goals, including the eventual difference maker with 6:23 left in the game. Sophomore goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi, who also was named first team All-NCAA Tournament, held the Trojans scoreless throughout the first half and racked up nine saves. UCLA never trailed in the game, though USC briefly pulled even at 4-4.

Both teams battled defensively in the first period with the Bruins holding a 1-0 lead as freshman Mo Kenney scored the lone goal for UCLA at the 2:02 mark.

Senior Chasen Travisano set up sophomore Tommy Gruwell for the opening score of the second period (7:17) to put UCLA up 2-0. Gruwell was the lone Bruin to be named second team All-NCAA Tournament. Redshirt junior Evan Rosenfeld put the Bruins up 3-0 (5:37) when he beat the Trojan keeper with a nearside skip shot. That was the final goal of the first half.

The Trojans responded in the third period by scoring the first two goals. The first was by Jacob Mercep (6:36) and the second was by Chris Sturtevant (4:42). Cavano put an end to the Trojans' scoring run with a power play goal (3:46) to push the lead to 4-2. But the Trojans again scored back-to-back goals to tie it at 4-4. Travisano then got in on the scoring act and put the Bruins back in front at 5-4 with 1:53 left in the third. UCLA maintained that lead heading into the final stanza.

Senior Nicolas Saveljic opened the scoring in the fourth with a power play goal (7:16) to push the lead to 6-4. Saveljic was named first team All-NCAA Tournament and the Most Valuable Player. Then Cavano became the first Bruin to score more than one goal when he found the back of the net on another 6-on-5 opportunity (6:23) to extend the lead to 7-4. USC would add two more goals, but was held scoreless over the final 3:25. Maurizi made two stops during that stretch.

The Trojans took possession with 19 seconds remaining, but a shot by Sturtevant bounced off the post and was corralled by Saveljic, setting off the celebration.

Adam Wright has now guided UCLA to four NCAA titles in the role of head coach. He also won two as a player and one in the position of assistant coach. The last four teams to reach the championship game (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2020-21) have raised the trophy at the end of each.

Nic Porter registered 13 saves for USC, which received two goals apiece from Mercep and Carson Kranz.

No. 3 UCLA at No. 4 USC (NCAA Championship Game - Uytengsu Aquatics Center)

No. 3 UCLA 1 2 2 2 7
No. 4 USC 0 0 4 2 6

6x5 - UCLA - 3/12 - USC - 1/12
Penalties - UCLA - 0/0 - USC - 0/0

UCLA Goals: Jake Cavano 2, Tommy Gruwell 1, Mo Kenney 1, Evan Rosenfeld 1, Nicolas Saveljic 1, Chasen Travisano 1
UCLA Saves: Bernardo Maurizi 9

USC Goals: Carson Kranz 2, Jacob Mercep 2, Jake Ehrhardt 1, Chris Sturtevant 1
USC Saves: Nic Porter 13