May 13, 2016
No. 1 USC (24-0) vs. No. 4 Michigan (30-6), 3:30 p.m.
No. 2 UCLA (25-4) vs. No. 3 Stanford (22-5), 5:15 p.m.
LOS ANGELES – Immediately after finishing his postgame news conference, UCLA women’s water polo head coach Brandon Brooks took a pool-side seat to watch the second quarterfinal match of the NCAA women’s water polo championship. He had scouting to do.
After UCLA’s 17-4 win over UC San Diego in the first quarterfinal Friday, Brooks watched conference foe Stanford advance with a 12-5 win over UC Santa Barbara. The two West Coast powerhouses will meet in an NCAA tournament semifinal for the third straight year Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center.
Third-seeded Stanford is the two-time defending national champion, winning both titles by beating UCLA in the final. The Cardinal (22-5) own four of the past five national titles and are well aware of the target on their backs.
“We’re very focused on this year, as opposed to concentrating on last year,” said Stanford sophomore Shannon Cleary, who led the Cardinal with three goals against UCSB. “But that’s definitely something we always consider, a team’s fire when we play against them, (because) we don’t want to underestimate how much people want to bring it to us.”
Second-seeded UCLA (25-4) only had a one-goal lead after the first quarter against UCSD, but outscored the Tritons 12-2 in the second and third quarters. The Bruins scored seven unanswered goals in the third quarteer, using their speed and a counter attack that UCSD head coach Brad Kreutzkamp characterized as “machine-like.”
Lizette Rozeboom led UCLA with four goals, followed by three goals and two assists from Alexa Tielmann, who was a perfect 3 for 3 shooting. Ashley Zwirner had two goals, two assists and three steals for the Bruins.
“I think when we play as team and we set each other up, that’s UCLA water polo,” Rozeboom said. “We allow each other to get goals and get steals and we play as a team. When we play as a team, great things can happen.”
Top-ranked USC had no trouble extending its winning streak as the Trojans won their quarterfinal match over San Diego State, 12-3. The Trojans improved to 24-0 as they try to complete the second perfect season in program history, with the first coming in 2004.
USC jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but had an “up-and-down” game, according to head coach Jovan Vavic.
“As the game went on, we saw that we had a lead and we started to slow down a little bit,” said Hayley McKelvey, who led the Trojans with three goals. “We just need to play with more heart and more fire throughout the entire game.”
The Trojans next face fourth-seeded Michigan in a 3:30 p.m. semifinal Saturday. The Wolverines (30-6) squeaked by fifth-seeded Arizona State, 5-4, on a game-winning goal from Allison Skaggs (El Toro High) with four seconds remaining.
ASU came back from a two-goal deficit in the fourth quarter with back-to-back goals from Ao Gao. Gao led the Sun Devils with three goals and tied the game with 1:24 left.
At that point, Skaggs was preparing for overtime, the junior admitted after the game, but she took advantage of a loose ball in front of ASU’s goal to finish the game in regulation.
“You always say that even though you’re prepared, you need a little bit of luck sometimes,” Michigan head coach Marcelo Leonardi said. “She found herself at the right position and finished.”