Women’s water polo: Stanford beats UCLA in NCAA championship thriller

After the UCLA women’s water polo team knocked off then-top-ranked Stanford in April, the Cardinal returned the favor and then some Sunday.

No. 2 Stanford scored a goal with nine seconds left to take down No. 1 UCLA 8-7 in the NCAA tournament championship in Indianapolis. It’s the third time in four years that the Cardinal has won a national title over UCLA.

Maggie Steffens was the hero for Stanford as she came away with a steal with 14 seconds left to squash UCLA’s potentially game-winning possession and then scored the title-clinching goal.

UCLA never led in the game and trailed by three goals twice, but came back to tie with 51 seconds left. Maddie Musselman‘s tying goal, her third of the game, also gave her the UCLA freshman scoring record with 69 goals this year.

The Team USA Olympian was named first-team All-Tournament, along with Rachel Fattal and Carlee Kapana. Alys Williams also scored three goals against Stanford.

Stanford is now tied with UCLA for the national lead in NCAA championships across all sports with 113. UCLA’s last NCAA title came in 2015 from the men’s water polo team. UCLA still has the winningest women’s water polo team with seven national titles, but has not won one since 2009.

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Women’s water polo faces Stanford in NCAA final

 

Stanford has thwarted the UCLA women’s water polo team in the NCAA tournament final twice since 2014. The Bruins hope the third time will be the charm.

After a 14-11 win over Cal in the semifinal Saturday, UCLA will face the Cardinal in the championship game Sunday at 12 p.m. PT in Indianapolis. It’s the third meeting between the MPSF foes in the NCAA final during the past four years. Stanford is making its seventh straight finals appearance and won four of the past six championships.

Maddie Musselman led the top-seeded Bruins (24-1) against the Bears with four goals. Mackenzie Barr and Rachel Fattal each added three goals.

Stanford edged out USC in the other semifinal. The Bruins already have two wins against the Cardinal this year, including a 6-3 victory in the MPSF tournament final.

UCLA leads the country in women’s water polo NCAA titles with seven, but hasn’t hoisted the trophy since 2009.The championship match will be live streamed on NCAA.com.

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Men’s tennis advances to Sweet 16

The UCLA men’s tennis team cruised through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament without its top singles player, sweeping Army on Friday and Ole Miss on Saturday at home to advance to the Sweet 16.

Junior Martini Redlicki clinched both of UCLA’s wins with two straight-set victories at No. 1 singles after he was elevated to the top spot due to a season-ending injury to senior Gage Brymer. The Bruins didn’t drop a single set during the entire weekend.

No. 5 UCLA (21-5) will play No. 12 Texas A&M in Athens, Ga., on Thursday at 1 p.m. PT.  The Bruins are playing for their first NCAA team title since 2005.

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UCLA football links: Kenny Young on Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list

PASADENA, CA – SEPTEMBER 24: Kenny Young #42 of the UCLA Bruins returns his interception as he looks for a block from Adarius Pickett #6 during the first quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Rose Bowl on September 24, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

UCLA middle linebacker Kenny Young was one of 42 players named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list on Friday.

Young, who is coming off a breakout junior year with the Bruins, was sixth in the Pac-12 in tackling last year with 90 total tackles (7.5 per game). He had five sacks, which ranked second on the team, one interception and three fumble recoveries. With the departure of the conference’s leading tackler Jayon Brown, Young will be the centerpiece of UCLA’s linebacking unit this season.

Young would be the third UCLA linebacker to win the Lott Trophy, which recognizes the top defensive player in the country while also celebrating the player’s off-the-field characteristics. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks won the award in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

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Steve Alford will be different without Bryce Alford – perception or reality?

Steve Alford has coached four seasons at UCLA, but his next will be the first without his son on the team. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

By the end of last season, the perception of Steve Alford in Westwood seemed to be undergoing a change.

A 31-5 season, nearly half of which UCLA spent ranked among the top five in the country, reportedly netted him an offer to fill Indiana’s coaching vacancy. Despite Alford’s shortcomings – a losing season a year earlier and a disappointingly early end to last season – the prospect of losing him was more than a little unsettling, especially if it compromised the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class on its way to UCLA in the fall.

It will be nearly impossible not to view Alford differently next season. His son won’t be around to color the perception of the UCLA coach’s decisions.

How much did Steve Alford sacrifice on UCLA’s behalf for Bryce Alford? The debate is endless.

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