The second-ranked men’s water polo team battled it out with No. 4 UCLA through three overtime periods on Saturday. The match in Westwood came down to a penalty shot awarded to UCLA, as the Bruins had the chance to earn the victory in a one-on-one showdown against senior goalie McQuin Baron. Alex Roelse’s skip-shot just sneaked past Baron’s right shoulder, and UCLA clinched a 12-11 victory.
A match that ended in heartbreak started out much differently for the Trojans. USC asserted its dominance early, as freshman driver Marko Vavic sent a shot soaring into the back of the goal in the opening minutes of play. Senior utility James Walters followed up with another goal, staking the Trojans an early 2-0 lead.
But the Bruins responded quickly. Following the first 2 USC goals, they quickly tied it up before the Trojans could extend their lead. The rest of the second period was a back-and-forth affair, but USC never trailed and eventually managed to take a 5-4 lead into halftime thanks to additional scores from senior driver Lazar Pasuljevic, junior driver Zach D’Sa and senior 2-meter Lachlan Edwards.
Coming out of the locker room, senior driver Matteo Morelli sent one sailing past UCLA goalie Alex Wolf on USC’s first possession, padding USC’s advantage to 6-4. However, the Bruins scored 3 unanswered goals — 2 on the power play — to seize a 7-6 lead. The Trojans responded with 2 goals in the final minute of the third quarter before the Bruins converted another man-up opportunity to knot things at 8 goals apiece heading into the final quarter.
The scoring slowed down in the fourth: Senior driver Blake Edwards capitalized on a power play to give USC the edge, but UCLA did the same to reestablish the deadlock. In the final three minutes of play, neither team could pull ahead, forcing overtime with the two sides tied at 9-9.
After a long scoreless stretch from both teams, Blake Edwards sent a shot flying past Wolf’s outstretched left arm to give the Trojans a late lead in the first overtime period. But USC’s hopes lasted just nine seconds, as the Bruins responded with their own goal. It was 10-10.
The Bruins’ reply forced the match into a second overtime, and this time, it was UCLA that scored first. Lachlan Edwards saved the Trojans with a backhanded shot that sailed past Wolf’s fingertips to tie things back up at 11-11 with only 38 seconds left.
The match moved into sudden death in the third overtime period. After only a few minutes of play, the Bruins were awarded the decisive penalty shot that sent the Trojans home with a tough 12-11 loss.
Despite a disappointing end to the regular season, the Trojans now look forward to the postseason. USC begins play in the MPSF Tournament as the No. 4 seed, and the team will kick off against Penn State Behrend at 10 a.m. on Friday before facing No. 3 Stanford at 3 p.m.