Bruins Do It: No. 1 UCLA Wins 2009 National Club Title 10-8 Versus No. 3 Florida International
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Matt Wiener (Sr., Los Altos, Calif.) scored four goals, including two in the fourth period, as No. 1-nationally ranked University of California-Los Angeles tallied four goals in the fourth period to overcome No. 3 Florida International University 10-8 and capture the 2009 Men's National Collegiate Club Championship at the University of Florida's Meng Pool.
The title marks the first for UCLA in the history of men's club water polo as both the Bruins and Florida International appeared in their first National Collegiate Club title games this year.
Ranked No. 1 in the country for the past several weeks, the Bruins road to the title was paved with uncertainty as UCLA came out of the ultra-difficult Pacific Coast Division. In the Pacific Coast title game, the Bruins made history defeating then co-No. 1 University of California-Berkeley 8-6 to complete an 11-0 division schedule and become the first division champion to defeat a fellow No. 1 team for a regional crown. In addition, it marked only the second time since 1999 that a team other than California Polytechnic State University has won the Pacific Coast Division.
Making their second appearance in the National Collegiate Club field as UCLA won the 2005 Pacific Coast crown and finished third in the NCCC field that year at Williams College, the Bruins needed every ounce of their speed, guile and defensive poise to knock off Florida International as the two teams punched and counter-punched until the final five minutes of regulation.
FIU jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first period as Andy Alvarez (Sr., Miami, Fla.) broke free on a man-up opportunity to fire a shot past UCLA netminder Mike Scott (So., Glendale, Calif.) at the 4:30 mark.
The Golden Panthers' lead held up until the 5:25 mark of the second period when Wiener, who earned Player of the Game honors for his performance against FIU, deked his way through the Florida International defense and finished a pass from Cameron Virjee (So., Rocking Hill, Calif.) to tie the game at 1-1.
UCLA's goal appeared to turn the momentum in favor of the Bruins as Wiener struck again at 3:57 before Austin Gable (So., San Diego, Calif.) converted on a man-up bid at 3:14 to stake the Blue & Gold to a 3-1 lead.
FIU stormed back as Alex Lipin (Jr., Moscow) and Chris Arias (Gr., Miami, Fla.) took over the game with Lipin scoring at 1:59 and 1:21 on a shot from the outside and a counter goal before Arias split the Bruins' defense for a direct shot to put FIU ahead 4-3 at halftime.
The lead grew to 5-3 at 5:31 of the third period when Lipin uncorked a shot from two-meters which struck the netting in the back of the cage, but UCLA refused to give in.
Caleb Greig (Jr., La Canada, Calif.) punched in a goal at 3:22 to trim the deficit to a single goal, but FIU's Arias responded with a man-up goal at 3:10 to return a two-goal lead to the Golden Panthers.
Needing a strike to regain the momentum, Michael Gonzales (Jr., South Pasadena, Calif.) responded for UCLA beating Florida International goalie Theo Jenetopolous (Sr., Miami, Fla.) at 2:51 before Greig added his second score with two seconds left on the clock to pull the teams even at 6-6 entering the fourth period.
Gonzales goal did more than start a UCLA comeback, it turned the tide of the game as Wiener continued the momentum into the fourth period with back-to-back markers at 5:35 and 4:44 to put the Bruins ahead 8-6.
The teams traded shots from there as Lipin scored on a man-advantage at 4:16 to pull the Golden Panthers to within one before Max Scott (So., Glendale, Calif.) responded at 3:49 wth an even-strength tally to put the game at 9-7 and net the eventual game-winner.
Facing a ticking clock and a UCLA defense that would bend, but not break, the Golden Panthers attempted to mount a comeback as Chase Vaughan (Sr., Miami, Fla.) fired a strike at 2:15, but Scott scored the biggest goal of his career at 1:21 ricocheting a ball off the post and past Jenetopolous for an insurance score and the 10-8 final score.
In cage, Mike Scott finished with eight saves to earn the win for the Bruins, while Jenetopolous took the loss for the Golden Panthers with nine saves.
Following the title game, UCLA head coach Doug Merkel was named the Outstanding Coach of the Tournament, while FIU's Chris Arias garnered Most Valuable Player honors for scoring 21 goals over the three-day tournament, including a tournament record 11 against No. 5 Michigan State University in a 15-4 semifinal victory.
|No. 1 University of California-Los Angeles||0||3||3||4||--||10|
|No. 3 Florida International University||1||3||2||2||--||8|
FIU Goals: Alex Lipin (4); Chris Arias (2); Chase Vaughan; Andy Alvarez
UCLA Goals: Matt Wiener (4); Caleb Greig (2); Max Scott (2); Michael Gonzales; Austin Gable;
Saves: FIU - Theo Jenetopolous (9) ; UCLA - Mike Scott (8)
Exclusions: FIU - 3 ; UCLA - 6
Advantage Opportunities: FIU - 3-for-6 ; UCLA - 2-for-3
Sprints: FIU - 0-for-4 ; UCLA - 4-for-4