Of all the sports that USC and UCLA compete against each other in, the one that is by far the most intensely competitive is the rivalry between the men's water polo teams. Tomorrow, at 3 PM at Berkeley, USC and UCLA will compete for the fifth time this season, and this time it is for the national championship.
For USC, it's a chance at history. If they win tomorrow, they will become the first water polo team to win four consecutive national championships. It's especially big for seniors Peter Kurzeka and Joel Dennerley, who have the chance to earn the bragging right of winning the national championship in all four years of their college career.
USC and UCLA have had quite a bit of history in water polo. This is the third time the two have met with the national title on the line. The first time was in 1996 at UCSD, where UCLA won 8-7. The second was in 2009, when USC prevailed 7-6. In addition, this will be the fifth time these teams have played against each other this season, and so far the season series has been split evenly:
NorCal Tournament Final: USC wins 10-8
SoCal Tournament 3rd Place match: UCLA wins 7-6
MPSF Regular Season: USC wins 9-6
MPSF Tournament Final: UCLA wins 10-9 in sudden death
USC's regular season victory gave them an undefeated MPSF regular season record that ensure their spot in the national championship, while UCLA's victory in the tournament gave them the automatic berth awarded to the MPSF tournament winner.
Without a doubt, the match is going to get ugly fast. Both teams have gained a reputation for their physical gameplay, which, combined with the heat of the rivalry, is sure to turn tomorrow's game into a brutal battle. UCSD head coach Denny Harper put it best:
"It’ll probably look like an hour and 10 minutes of a bar fight."
The game is at 3 PM and can be viewed on the web stream at ncaa.com