LOS ANGELES – Nikos Delagrammatikas took it personally that the Cal men's water polo team hadn't won an NCAA championship since he arrived on campus in 2017.
So the graduate student from Athens, Greece, took matters into his own hands on Sunday.
Delagrammatikas scored the game-winning goal with 28 seconds left, lifting the second-seeded Bears to a 13-12 victory over top-seeded USC in the national championship match at Spieker Aquatics Center.
"I can't really describe what it means to me," Delagrammatikas said. "I'm a little overwhelmed."
Delagrammatikas' goal helped the Bears (22-4) win their 15th NCAA championship, the most all-time among Division I men's water polo programs. His goal provided the culmination of a back-and-forth title match between two of the premier programs in NCAA men's water polo.
The game featured five lead changes and the Bears still trailed 12-11 with 2:29 to play. But after senior All-American Jack Deely tied it with 2:12 to go, Delagrammatikas provided the game-winner on the power play.
USC had a final chance to tie the game and went on a power play with six seconds left. But a final shot by the Trojans' Ashworth Mothen was blocked by Cal star Nikolaos Papanikolaou, and time ran out as the ricochet soared high into the air.
"That was a great game with two incredibly talented teams," said Cal head coach Kirk Everist, who won his fourth NCAA championship in his 20th season at the helm. "Fortunately for us, we were able to make a couple of more plays here and there. I really enjoyed just watching the teams go and battle."
Freshman Max Casabella led the Bears with four goals and two assists while goalie Adrian Weinberg made 15 saves. MPSF Newcomer of the Year Roberto Valera had three goals and an assist while Papanikolaou and Deely had two goals apiece.
Casabella totaled 10 goals and four assists in two games during the NCAA Championship. Cal defeated UCLA 15-13 in overtime in Saturday's semifinals.
"It's the end of a long journey and some great memories for these kids," Everist said. "I'm really proud of how they battled against the teams that we beat and how hard we played. You have to be prepared and make plays, and both teams did."
Papanikolaou was named the most valuable player of the NCAA Championship while Deely, Casabella and Weinberg were named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament First Team. Delagrammatikas was selected for the Second Team.