UCLA 3, Stanford 2

May 15, 2005


Site: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Canham Natatorium)
Event: NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship (Game 12)
Result: No. 1 UCLA 3, No. 3 Stanford 2
Records: UCLA (33-0), Stanford (22-7)
Next UCLA Game: Season complete, 1st place
Next Stanford Game: Season complete, 2nd place

NCAA Champions! UCLA Completes Perfect Season

ANN ARBOR, Mich. No. 1 seed UCLA completed its bid for a perfect season with a 3-2 victory over No. 3 seed Stanford Sunday (May 15) in the finals of the NCAA Championship at the University of Michigan's Canham Natatorium. UCLA led throughout the match, but it wasn't until the Bruins forced a power-play turnover on the Cardinal's final possession of the game that the victory was secure.

UCLA started the game as the aggressor, earning a pair of six-on-five opportunities in the first three minutes of play. After being turned away on their first power-play attempt, the Bruins took a 1-0 lead with a man-up goal by senior Natalie Golda at the 4:03 mark of the first quarter. Three minutes later UCLA doubled its lead with a marker from Brittany Rowe. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second quarter, and the score remained 2-0 in favor of UCLA at the half.

In the second half, Stanford quickly made it a one-goal game with a marker by senior Hannah Luber on its second possession of the third quarter. The Cardinal had multiple chances to score the equalizer, including back-to-back power play opportunities near the two minutes mark of the third quarter but both times UCLA's defense was up to the task. After 21 minutes of play, UCLA still held a 2-1 lead.

UCLA regained its two-goal margin early in the fourth quarter on Rowe's second tally of the game. Junior Thalie Munro dumped the ball into Rowe in the post and Rowe sent a sweep shot to the right side for the score. Stanford answered one minute later with a goal by Katie Hansen that made the score 3-2 with four minutes left in the match. Luber entered the ball into the hole set from point and Hansen turned for a shot to the left side that found the back of the cage.

The teams exchanged possessions over the next three minutes with neither squad able to gain an advantage. With 0:36 to play, sophomore Christina Hewko drew an ejection on the Bruins, giving Stanford one last chance at tying the game and sending the match into overtime. Following a timeout, UCLA forced the Cardinal into a turnover on a long crossing pass and ran out the final 16 seconds to close out the game.

UCLA (33-0) won its third NCAA Championship, while Stanford (22-7) finished second for the third time after winning the NCAA title in 2003.


UCLA Head Coach Adam Krikorian
On UCLA's narrow 3-2 win ... "We beat them 5-4 and 4-3 and now 3-2. I would have never expected this kind of game. I thought we'd score more than three but I also thought they would put in more than two goals. It was a physical game and the refs let us play. It says a lot about this team and its heart and character. We went through this year without any really close games until yesterday against Hawaii and today. It's indescribable."

On UCLA's standout players ... "Brittany Rowe had two goals as a freshman and she came through in the clutch. Natalie was awesome and Thalia showed great leadership. Nat has meant a lot to our team but everyone means something to our team. She deserves this championship because she's not only a great player but she's a great person."

On winning the national title ... "It's such a relief to win. It has been hard to be the favorites all year and the pressure becomes great especially at this time of year. We didn't really play all that well today and yesterday. We were very shaky on offense today but good teams find ways to win. We were 33-0 this year and hardly trailed all season. I think this is the greatest women's water polo team ever. This a team that people won't soon forget. The players here won't appreciate what they did until 10 or 20 years down the road when they look at the stats. This is as good as it gets. Maybe I should retire today. I have been very fortunate to work at a great school with great players and with great support. I'm already looking forward to next year. Not many people can literally say that they love going to their job every day, but I can."

UCLA Senior Center Natalie Golda
On the title game ... "I'm too excited to be sentimental right now. I was stunned in disbelief when we won. I had a lot of pressure on me from a lot of sides this season and to win a championship was amazing. I am so proud of our team. Our team was half brand new this year and made up of a lot of freshmen but we came together and how our grit this week."

On her third national championship ... "I was excited to win my third ring. I came in as a freshman and won and now I get to leave with one. We beat Stanford every time too, which is a little ironic. I know how it feels to lose and if we lost this game I would be in a very different mood. We showed what we're all about this week."

UCLA Sophomore Goalkeeper Emily Feher
On the title ... "I was so excited to play in the championships. Our defense was amazing today and the blocks my teammates made in front of me were crazy. I fed on their good play and got so excited. This is the best feeling I've ever had and it feels so good to win with a team that I love, especially after a tough game like we had against Hawaii."

Stanford Head Coach John Tanner
On the national championship game ... "There wasn't a whole lot of momentum or a lot of goals scored. It was just getting a few good possessions in a row. That was the only control that anyone had. I felt we didn't have enough sustained possessions. We had way too many turnovers. We just didn't have enough concerted play in the frontcourt."

On the defensive nature of the match ... "Both schools pride themselves on playing defense and playing team defense. That shows up in five-on-six situations. Combined today we were 1-11, with us 0-for-5 and them 1-for-6. That was the difference in the game."

On Stanford's offense ... "I felt we didn't put many quality shots on them when we had really good scoring opportunities. I thought two or three times, any time we had a good shot, they got a field block. The ball didn't even get through to Emily (Feher) and they were point blank shots. We needed to do better with those, but you give credit to them getting those blocks."

On the difference in the game ... "Overall, UCLA had more quality opportunities and Meredith (McColl) was stellar in keeping us in it. We played good two-meter defense. We narrowed the goal down. I felt like those two goal leads were insurmountable. If it is 7-5 it's no big deal, but 3-1 it just felt like it was a real battle."


-- Courtesy Michigan