Nov. 16, 2009

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com

Homecoming weekend. Packed house. Two overtime periods. Top-ranked USC and third-ranked Stanford met on Saturday morning before their football brethren did battle and it was a game for the ages. There were a number of tight contests this weekend and we lead off with one that took everybody's breath away.

 

Tied 7-7 entering the fourth quarter, USC and Stanford each put their foot on the gas and gave the water polo public a quarter that will never be forgotten. Each squad scored five times with the last two goals providing edge of your seat drama. Justin Rappel scored what was thought to be the game-winner with ten seconds left, however Stanford came right back to tie the game and force the extra stanzas. In overtime, Rappel was the hero once again as his fourth goal of the game was the winner for the Trojans. Jordan Thompson also scored four times while Joel Dennerley had ten saves for USC in the crucial victory. Janson Wigo and Paul Rudolph led the Stanford offense with four goals each while Jimmie Sandman keyed the defense with twelve saves.

 

For USC, this win means that the Trojans are in the driver's seat for an NCAA bid. A win next week versus seventh-ranked UC-Irvine clinches an undefeated MPSF campaign and probably punches their NCAA ticket. While this loss does not cripple Stanford, I do think they face a must-win situation next weekend against second-ranked California in the "Big Splash". California enters that contest having won nine straight games including a 12-5 victory over fifteenth-ranked Pacific on Saturday. There is only one at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and it will likely come down to those two squads. Expect that game to be a clash for the ages.

 

Form did not hold at the SCIAC Championships as top-seeded Whittier and second-seeded Pomona-Pitzer were both upset in the tournament's semifinals. While Pomona-Pitzer losing to third-seeded Redlands cannot be considered an incredible surprise, Whittier losing to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps can only be described as stunning. The Poets boasted an unblemished conference record and were the clear favorites entering the tournament. Whittier took out the disappointment of losing to Claremont by handily defeating Pomona-Pitzer in the third-place game. The championship went to Redlands as they ended Claremont's Cinderella run with a 4-2 victory. This was the Bulldogs first title since 2006 and eighth overall. John Floersch, Ryan Floersch, Miran Terzic, Erik Grosshans and Teddy Trowbridge all had big tournaments to help lead Redlands to the championship.

 

Fifth-ranked Pepperdine and seventh-ranked UC-Irvine engaged in a wild affair on Sunday afternoon as it took five overtime periods before a winner was finally determined. Christian Cardey was the hero for Pepperdine as he hit paydirt with nineteen seconds left in the fifth overtime period to secure a win for the Waves. Kyle Baxter's heroics for UC-Irvine should not be forgotten as it was his goal with one second left in regulation that forced the extra stanzas. J.P. MacDonell led the Pepperdine offense with five goals while Tommy O'Connell spearheaded the defense with fourteen saves.

 

In other action, UCLA secured the fourth seed in the upcoming MPSF Tournament with a 9-7 win over tenth-ranked UC Santa Barbara. Two seniors had monumental days for the Bruins as Chay Lapin's seven saves moved him into a tie for third place on UCLA's all-time saves list with Dan Hackett while Scott Davidson's two goals tied him for fourth all-time on UCLA's scoring list with Krsto Sbutega. Eighth-ranked Long Beach State scored a mild upset over sixth-ranked Loyola Marymount. The 49ers won 8-6 and were led by Derek Wiebe-Bailey who had fifteen saves. Loyola Marymount's anemic offense sealed their fate as they could only muster one first-half goal and two goals through three frames.

 

Player of the Week

 

Derek Wiebe-Bailey, Long Beach State, Sr.: Wiebe-Bailey stifled Loyola Marymount over the weekend as he made fifteen saves in the Long Beach State victory. A third-team All-MPSF performer last season, Wiebe-Bailey has quietly been solid as evidenced by seven games with ten or more saves including one eighteen-save effort earlier this season against twelfth-ranked Navy.

 

Game to Watch

 

Two NCAA bids will be awarded this weekend as the CWPA and WWPA are holding their tournament championships. Each conference has a presumptive favorite; however there are looming dark horses that stand ready to steal an NCAA bid.

 

Out East, twelfth-ranked Navy is the clear favorite to win the CWPA Eastern Championship and make their fourth straight Final Four. Navy has really stepped up its game over the last month and their depth and experience make them tough for any of the teams in this field to handle. The Midshipmen have a clear path to the Championship game as they will be heavy favorites against Iona in the first round and in the semifinals against whoever wins the Fordham-Johns Hopkins contest.

 

The other side of the Eastern bracket is rugged. Brown and Bucknell face off in an incredible first round tilt. I personally think that game involves two of the East's four best teams. Brown was CWPA Northern Division Tournament and co-regular season champions while Bucknell was ranked for a large part of this season. The winner of that contest faces the winner of seventeenth-ranked Princeton and MIT. Do not sleep on that game as MIT almost upset Princeton last season at Easterns. The winners of those two contests will pair off for a semifinal matchup that should be a classic.

 

Loyola Marymount limps into the WWPA tournament after a horrendous performance against Long Beach State. That game exposed what has been a recurring problem for the Lions, which is that their offense goes through stretches without getting goals on the board. However, the sixth-ranked Lions have won twenty-eight straight games against WWPA foes and they are the presumptive favorites to win this tournament and get back to the Final Four. Goalie Andy Stevens was last season's WWPA Tournament MVP and he has a habit of playing exceptional in big games. The goalie who represented the United States in the World University Games gives LMU an advantage over every team in the tournament.

 

Loyola Marymount's two most formidable challengers met up in a double overtime classic on Saturday afternoon. Eleventh-ranked UC San Diego beat thirteenth-ranked Santa Clara in that game 14-13. Both teams are peaking and could make magic happen in the WWPA Finals. The Tritons are led by two-time All-American Steven Donahoe while Santa Clara's marquee player is 2008 All-American Jack Wall.