Dan Albano reports from the NCAA men's water polo final at USC on Sunday.

Despite O.C. help, UCLA falls to USC


LOS ANGELES -- UCLA’s men’s water polo team leaned on six Orange County products when the pressure of Sunday’s NCAA championship match against USC seemed hot enough to boil the currents at McDonald’s Swim Stadium.

Josh Samuels, Griffin White, Paul Reynolds, Daniel Lenhart, Anthony Daboub and goalie Matt Rapacz delivered a valiant effort but there was again no stopping the host Trojans and masterful coach, Jovan Vavic, from another milestone.

Kostas Genidounias scored on a shot from the left flat with 40 seconds left and Mace Rapsey knocked down a late pass by Reynolds into White at center to help No. 1 USC emerge with an 11-10 victory for its record fifth consecutive title.

Before an overflow crowd that featured bands from both schools, the Trojans (29-0) became the first program to claim five consecutive NCAA titles. They chanted “Five-peat!” afterward and clapped out chants of “Un-de-feated!”

“It was one of those spectacular games,” Vavic said. “UCLA was extremely well-coached in this game, prepared and ready, and they executed really well.

“But our guys have been there before. They know to win. They have great heart.”

Vavic later predicted a sixth straight title in ’13 but the Trojans needed late dramatics Sunday because No. 2 UCLA (28-5) led, 10-9, after Samuels’ perimeter strike from 8 meters with 3:09 left. Samuels (Villa Park) shot from the middle of the pool, flanked by Reynolds (Foothill) and White (El Toro).

But USC quickly knotted the score, 10-10, on a power-play strike by tournament MVP Michael Rosenthal with 2:25 left. Rosenthal scored just as the Bruins’ defense was about to come even following an ejection to Daboub (Mater Dei).

Rosenthal’s score arrived moments after USC nearly lost the ball to a turnover. UCLA argued that the Trojans lost possession out of bounds.

Wright argued the call along with the winning goal. He barked that Genidounias’ strike out of a timeout came after an offensive foul. Genidounias scored off a pick and cross pass from Matthew Burton.

“We fought a great battle today,” Wright said. “It will be real interesting to watch tape of the last goal.”

Said Burton: “Kostas is the man. That kid doesn’t feel pressure.”

USC finished 6 for 9 on the power-play, including one two-man advantage. UCLA led by three goals twice in the first period but struggled with the extra attacker, going 1 for 5.

Samuels scored twice while Rapacz (Villa Park) finished with 11 saves.

In the third-place match, St. Francis of New York defeated Air Force, 14-8.

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