And so the stage is set. This afternoon, the USC Men's Water Polo team defeated the Air Force Falcons 18-7 in the NCAA national semifinals to improve their record to 28-0 and have an opportunity to win their fifth consecutive national championship tomorrow. And just like in 2009 and 2011, their opponents will be the UCLA Bruins (28-4), who defeated St. Francis N.Y. 17-3.
USC got off to a shaky start in the first few minutes, allowing Air Force to take a 2-1 lead. But after that, the Trojans woke up, knocking in four consecutive goals to lead by three at the start of the second quarter and by five at halftime. In the third quarter, USC put it away with six goals in the quarter. Nine Trojans scored in the game, with four scoring multiple goals. Sophomore Kostas Genidounias was the top scorer with five goals, with Nikola Vavic and Marc Vonderweidt scoring three and Mace Rapsey scoring two. In the net, both of SC's goal keepers got ample playing time, with junior James Clark making four saves in the first half and redshirt sophomore Ely Bonilla making six.
Tomorrow's game against UCLA will be the third meeting between the rivals this season. In the NorCal tournament finals, USC pulled away in the final frame to win 7-6, and two weeks ago, they defeated the Bruins again 10-9 with another fourth quarter stand. UCLA's last victory in water polo against USC was in last year's MPSF tournament final. USC went on to defeat them in the National Championship game 7-4.
The National Championship will be decided at McDonald Swim Stadium tomorrow at 3:10 PM. You can watch the web stream on NCAA.com. For more on tomorrow's big game, check out SB Nation's excellent water polo blog, The Skip Shot.