LOS ALAMITOS – The No. 4 ranked California men’s water polo team (16-9) fell in a 6-5 squeaker to No. 2 ranked UCLA (21-3) in the title match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament, Sunday in Los Alamitos.
A victory over the Bruins would have given Cal an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship, Dec. 2-3 in Malibu. The Bears could still receive an at-large berth to the NCAAs after topping Long Beach State, 10-6, and upsetting No. 1 ranked UC Irvine, 9-7 in overtime, during the tournament.
“I think any number of teams deserve a berth,” said Cal coach Peter Asch. “Any one of the teams from our conference would be a good representative”
UCLA won its second consecutive MPSF Championship with the victory. The Bruins trailed at the half, 3-2, but scored three unanswered goals, two from Brian Brown, to take a 5-3 lead early in the fourth quarter. Bear senior Eldad Hazor brought Cal to within one with a goal with 39 seconds left in the match, but the Bruins controlled the next possession and prevented Cal from taking more than a desperation shot at the buzzer.
Hazor led the Bears with two goals.Sophomore goalie Russell Bernstein had an impressive match with 11 saves.
“I just thought the tournament was a reflection of the whole season,” said Asch. “Every game is so tough. I thought both teams played very well, and it’s a shame that one of them had to lose. It was a high-end, toe-to-toe affair.”