NCAA Men's Water Polo Championships - Semifinals
No. 3 UC San Diego (17-9) vs. No. 2 UCLA (23-4)
Saturday, December 3, 2011 - 3:00 p.m.
Spieker Aquatics Center - Berkeley, Calif.
UCSD ONE OF FOUR TEAMS REMAINING
The UCSD men's water polo team received the No. 3 seed for the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship by virtue of the Western Water Polo Association's automatic bid. UCSD, who won the WWPA Tournament on Nov. 20 with an 8-7 win over UC Davis in the title game, will be making its 11th appearance at the NCAA Championship. UCSD will face-off with second-seeded UCLA on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. UCLA received an automatic bid into the four-team field by winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship. The Bruins took down the University of Southern California in the MPSF title game; however, USC received an at-large berth into the Championship and was awarded the No. 1 seed. USC will play No. 4 Princeton (Collegiate Water Polo Association automatic bid) in the opposite semifinal on Saturday. The national championship game will take place on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
For an inside scoop of the Tritons' trip to Berkeley, visit NCAA Championship Central.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
UCSD is headed to Berkeley this weekend thanks to the Tritons' first WWPA title since 2006. UCSD received the No. 2 seed for Nov. 17-20's WWPA Championships thanks to a 12-3 regular season conference record. The Tritons took down Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (12-8) and Santa Clara (10-2) in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, before edging UC Davis by one (8-7) in the title match. Josh Stiling paced the Tritons with a hat trick in the championship, while Graham Saber and John Butler tossed-in a pair of goals apiece. Top-seed Loyola Marymount, who had won the previous four WWPA titles, was upset by UCD in the semifinals. Since 2000, UCSD and LMU are the only schools to have won the conference title. The Tritons have won it four times (2000, 2002, 2006, 2011), compared with eight times for the Lions. This year's crown was the 15th WWPA title for the Tritons.
PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS
Senior goalkeeper David Morton has been solid between the pipes this season for UCSD. He became UCSD's all-time saves leader on Sept. 4 against Cal Lutheran and has now stopped 1,079 shots in his four-year career. This season, Morton was an All-WWPA First Team selection and earned the WWPA Tournament's Most Valuable Player award after saving 37 shots over three games at the tournament. He stopped two penalty shots and forced UC Davis to go 0-for-3 from five meters during the championship. Morton has recorded double-digit saves in 15 contests so far this season and he has appeared in the single-season top-10 for saves in each of his four years on campus.
ARMED AND READY
Graham Saber has been the Tritons' offensive weapon of choice this season, as the senior has recorded a team-best 80 goals on the year. That's more than double of any other UCSD player and his total is the eighth-most in a single season in school history. During the WWPA Tournament, Saber scored 10 goals, including four in each game of the quarterfinals and semifinals. He's tallied multiple goals in 22 straight matches dating back to September 10 and has scored in every contest this season for the Tritons. His 15 hat tricks are a team-best and he has recorded a seven-goal game, a six-goal game and two five-goal games this season. He won WWPA Player of the Week on September 14th after a 12-goal performance over two matches against Pomona Pitzer and Claremont. His 196 shot attempts this season are second-most in a single season in school history.
NEWS AND NOTES
Denny Harper won the WWPA Coach of the Year for the 16th time in his career. He has won the conference's top coaching accolade in exactly half of his 32 years on campus ... Freshman David Higginson had a pair of assists and a pair of steals in the WWPA Championship game. He also added a goal ... Josh Stiling scored seven goals at the conference tournament. He's scored in 14 of the team's last 15 games ... UCLA and UCSD met earlier this season, a game which the Bruins won 9-4 at Canyonview Pool ... UCSD is 7-17 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and has appeared in the national championship game only once. That was back in 2000 when the Tritons upset USC 9-8 in the semifinals before dropping a 2-11 decision to UCLA in the championship.