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USC Men’s Water Polo Comes Up Just Short In NCAA Title Match

Mar 21, 2021

LOS ANGELES — In its 15th NCAA title match appearance in the past 16 seasons, the USC men's water polo team came up just shy of forcing an overtime decision in the championship of the postponed 2020 National Collegiate Men's Water Polo Championship. USC had carved down a three-goal deficit and had looks at equalizers but saw unlucky bounces leave UCLA as the victor in a 7-6 decision today at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The loss left USC with an 8-9 overall record in a delayed and shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Staunch defense by the Bruins had USC off-balance in the first half, although the Trojan defense was also stingy.  The Bruins were able to break through once in the first period to go up 1-0 late in the frame, and then they got two more even scores to go in the second while the Trojans found themselves unable to convert on the offensive end in trailing 3-0 by halftime. In the third, USC found its groove, netting back-to-back goals on strikes from Jacob Mercep and Chris Sturtevant to get it back to a one-goal game at 3-2 midway through the third. UCLA finished off a 6-on-5 chance next, but USC roared back and leveled things after a huge score from Jake Ehrhardt was followed by a magnificent effort from Carson Kranz. That snarled up the score at 4-4 with 2:17 on the clock, only to see UCLA go back on top on its next possession. USC goalie Nic Porter had the last word of the third, hauling another big save en route to his 13-save effort on the day.

In the fourth, UCLA earned back-to-back power plays and finished them both to go up 7-4, but the Trojans were undeterred. Mercep ripped in his second at 4:14 and then Kranz did the same with a nearside skipper that tugged the Trojans within one at 7-6 with 3:25 remaining in regulation. USC looked to have the equalizer on a 6-on-5 shot, but the ball was deemed saved off the goal line. Porter made another key save to turn away the Bruins next, setting USC up for a look to force OT with 19 seconds left. The Trojans got the shot off, but it clipped the crossbar and time ran out on USC's efforts to extend the game as UCLA emerged victorious with the 2020 national championship.

At the end of the event, USC had four players earn All-Tournament honors. On the NCAA All-Tournament First Team were Jake Ehrhardt and Jacob Mercep, with Carson Kranz and Nic Porter picking up All-Tournament Second Team accolades.

NATIONAL COLLEGIATE MEN'S WATER POLO CHAMPIONSHIP

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
UCLA 7, USC 6
March 21, 2021 | Uytengsu Aquatics Center (Los Angeles, Calif.)
USC    0 - 0 - 4 - 2  = 6
UCLA  1 - 2 - 2 - 2 = 7

SCORING:
USC —  Jacob Mercep 2, Carson Kranz 2, Chris Sturtevant, Jake Ehrhardt.
UCLA — Jake Cavano 2, Evan Rosenfeld, Chasen Travisano, Nicolas Saveljic, Mo Kenney, Tommy Gruwell.

SAVES: Nic Porter (USC) 13, Bernardo Maurizi (UCLA) 9.