The Bruins were on the verge of defeat, but then they got a rush of new life.
Trailing 12-11 in the final moments, the ball found its way to sophomore attacker Makoto Kenney, who scored with three seconds left to force overtime.
The celebration didn’t last long, however, as the added time instead went the Golden Bears’ way.
No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (20-4) lost in overtime to No. 2 Cal (21-4) by a score of 15-13 in the NCAA semifinals Saturday night, ending their chances of winning a second-straight national championship. The Bruins have now lost three times to the Golden Bears this season alone, and are 1-6 in the head-to-head dating series back to last year.
With a spot in the championship match against USC on the line, there were plenty of goals, dramatic moments, bickering and complaints from start to finish.
With just over a minute left in the second period, the Bruins turned it over in front of the net, but coach Adam Wright and his players were arguing for a penalty to be called on the play. As the Golden Bears made their way to the other end of the pool, Wright held his hands up in the air while staring down the referee, shouting “Remember that” before turning his attention back to the pool.
UCLA got the stop on that end and got the equalizer from junior center Gabe Discipulo moments later, with just 24 seconds remaining in the half.
From the moment the Bruins won the sprint to start the third period – which lined up perfectly with the bass drop of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” – they took control of the match, getting out ahead and answering every punch thrown by the Golden Bears.
One minute later, redshirt senior utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim drew a penalty and graduate attacker Nicolas Saveljic converted on the 5-meter attempt to put UCLA up 6-5. A few possessions later, they went up 7-5 off another goal by Discipulo.
All the while, Cal coach Kirk Everist became the one getting in the ref’s ear, yelling about the UCLA defender’s hands being down and how they needed to start calling holds, sinks and pulls.
Everist got his wish right after calling a timeout, as redshirt senior utility Evan Rosenfeld got stuck with a yellow card and the Golden Bears took advantage by burying the penalty shot to cut the deficit in half.
The Bruins got their two-goal lead right back, though, as freshman attack Chase Dodd beat the shot clock with a goal on the left side of the net, then Kenney beat the buzzer to end the third to make it 9-7 UCLA.
While the Solid Gold Sound struck up the Bruins’ fight song, Everist continued to yell at the referees and NCAA officials about how he could see fouls on every possession and that his players were “getting absolutely murdered.”
If anyone got slaughtered at the start of the fourth quarter, however, it was the Bruins.
Cal scored three-straight goals in the opening minutes of the final period, with the go-ahead score coming from true freshman attacker Max Casabella, who had six goals on the night. UCLA’s first six possessions of the fourth all came up empty.
Senior attacker Jake Cavano tied things up again at 10 all just past the three-minute mark, but Cal answered with another goal after an exclusion a minute later to retake the lead. The teams continue to trade goals, with Saveljic lobbying a pass down low to junior attacker Tommy Gruwell, who rifled a bouncing shot past the goalkeeper to make it 11-11.
Another exclusion on UCLA with 52 seconds left in the match set Cal up on another advantage, but the Bruins managed to get Brozyna-Vilim back in as the shot clock was winding down. Evening up the numbers didn’t prove to do much, though, as the Golden Bears nailed a go-ahead shot with 30 seconds remaining.
Wright called his final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock and his team down 12-11. The Bruins worked the ball around and it stuck with Kenney for a moment.
Then, the same player who scored before the buzzer at the end of the third year it rip again with the game on the line. From the left side, Kenney went far post and just barely got one into the back of the net with three seconds remaining to force overtime.
Kenney got called for an exclusion early on in the first overtime period and the Golden Bears took advantage with a goal to go up 13-12. The second overtime started with a no-look goal by Cal, and after Cavano made it a one-goal contest again with two minutes to play, they scored again to ice things with 19 seconds remaining.
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