ATLANTA, Ga. -- For No. 1 ranked University of Southern California, the 2011 Men's National Collegiate Club season ended the way it began - with a victory - as the Trojans completed a perfect season in capturing the 2011 National Collegiate Club Championship tournament hosted by Georgia Tech University by fighting for an 8-5 win over No. 18 Yale University.
Never leading by more than three throughout the game, the Trojans needed to outscore the Bulldogs 6-4 in the second half to hold off a Yale squad which appeared primed to become the first East Coast team to claim the championship since 1997.
In a historical context, USC is now one-for-two in appearances at Nationals and title game berths as the Trojans fell to host and fellow Pacific Coast Division member California Polytechnic State University 11-9 OT in the 2002 National Collegiate Club Championship title game. It marked the only other time prior to this season that Southern Cal made the National Collegiate Club Championship.
The comparison between the 2002 and 2011 Trojans' squads is not a fair one, however, as USC made the field that year as one of three Pacific Coast Division representatives - a practice that is no longer used due to the rapid growth of club water polo over the past nine years.
For the Pacific Coast Division, the Trojans' crown marks the 11th time since 1999 that a team from the divsion finished as either the champion (2010, 2009 - University of California-Los Angeles; 2007, 2004, 2002, 2001, 1999 - California Polytechnic State University) or runner-up (2008, 2003 - California Polytechnic State University; 2002 - USC) at Nationals. In addition, it guarantees the division the No. 1 position in the tournament field for next year as the results of the 2011 championship will seed the 2012 National Collegiate Club Championship tentatively scheduled for the Northwest Division.
The 2011 Pacific Coast Division
champions after downing the University of California-San Diego at
Cal Poly last month by a 9-7 final, the Trojans needed to rely on
the play of goalie and Player of the Game Paul Mitre (So.,
San Pedro, Calif.) to claim collegiate club sports
penultimate prize against Yale as he stopped seven shots, including
five in the second half, before giving way to Jake Rudolph
(Jr., Whittiter, Calif.) for the closing minutes of the
USC's eight goal output marked only the fourth time this year the Trojans were held under 10 goals as UC-San Diego (9-8 W OT, 9-7 W) and Cal Poly (8-6 W) both kept Southern California under the decade mark in Pacific Coast Division play.
Overall, the Trojans needed a team effort to down Yale as Tournament Most Valuable Player Cem Carak (Sr., Istanbul, Turkey) was held to just five shots on goal, with none finding the back of the cage.
Scoring was scarce in the first half as Kevin May (Sr., Carmel Valley, Calif.) put the Red & Gold on the board with 1:42 left in the first period. Paul Orland (Sr., St. Louis, Mo.) tied the game with 3:40 remaining in the second period on a man-up chance, but USC regained the lead prior to intermission with a blast by Christian Grant (So., Huntinton Beach, Calif.) at 4:46 as the Trojans went to their corner with a narrow 2-1 lead.
Needing a knockout punch in the third period to put the Bulldogs down for the count and prevent a nailbiting fourth period of play, the Trojans could not land a blow until May managed to connect at 4:46 for a 3-1 lead. Thirty-seven seconds later Tom Avery (Sr., San Jose, Calif.) converted on a man-up opportunity with 4:09 left as he grabbed a loose ball immediately following the awarding of an ejection to Dom Kwok (Jr., Hong Kong, China) to push the margin to 4-1.
The Bulldogs responded with a successful five-meter penalty shot by David Skophammer (Sr., Los Angeles, Calif.) at 2:40, but Zayne Belal (Sr., Malibu, Calif.) answered with a man-up goal at 1:38 to make it 5-2. Facing a potential USC scoring flurry to put the game out of reach, Pablo Cuevas (Jr., Trumbull, Conn.) equaled Belal at the one minute mark with an advantage score of his own to keep the margin at a pair, 5-3, with a period to play.
Unlike the third period, USC managed to harm Yale's title hopes to start the fourth period as Spencer Borisoff (Jr., La Canada, Calif.) bombed a ball into the cage at 5:37 and Billy Evashwick (Sr., Los Angeles, Calif.) snaked his way for an open man-up shot at 4:25 to hand the Trojans a four-goal lead at 7-3.
However, the Bulldogs refused to roll over and play dead as Skophammer (4:05) and Orland (3:25) took advantage of ejections to May and Carak, respectively, to shave the lead down to 7-5 with under three and a half minutes to play.
Defense and a timely score by Evashwick with 1:24 to play were the only moments of note in the final moments of the game as Mitre, Rudolph and the rest of the USC defense did enough to keep Yale off the board and pick up a three-goal National Championship victory.
Evashwick, May and Belal led the way for Southern California with pairs of goals, while Orland and Skophammer registered pairs of markers for Yale with goalie Keith Rubin (Sr., Bethesda, Md.) notching eight saves.
The championship appearance by Yale was especially noteworthy on a National level as an East Coast team had not made the National Championship game since Florida International University fell to UCLA in 2009 at the University of Florida.
Further, since 1993, only eight teams from the Atlantic Coast had qualified for the title game as the Univeristy of Maryland (1993, runner-up), United States Military Academy (1994, champion; 1995, runner-up), Dartmouth College (1997, champion), Pennsylvania State University (1998, runner-up), University of Richmond (1999, runner-up), Villanova University (2001, runner-up), FIU (2009, runner-up) entering the 2011 tournament.
Paramount for Yale, which handled No. 20 Villanova University (9-3 W), No. 14 Texas Tech University (11-9 W OT) and No. 9 Columbia University (10-9 W OT) in the three earlier rounds, was the performance of National Collegiate Club Coach of the Year Andy Lewandowski who designed ways to minimize the Trojans primary scorers to give the Bulldogs a fighting chance at the championship.
For fans of men's collegiate club water polo, the next chance at the National Championship begins in 10 months as the division races heat up in September 2012. For USC, Yale and the other 150+ men's collegiate club teams around the country, preparations and training to become the top dog at the 2012 National Collegiate Club Championship tournament begin tomorrow.
|No. 18 Yale University
|No. 1 University of Southern California
USC Goals: Billy
Evashwick (2); Kevin May (2); Zayne Belal (2); Spencer Borisoff;
Yale Goals: Paul
Orland (2); David Skophammer (2); Pablo Cuevas
Saves: USC - Paul Mitre (7, 26 minutes), Jake Rudolph (2, 2 minutes) ; Yale - Keith Rubin (8)
Exclusions: USC - 6 ; Yale - 9
Advantage Opportunities: USC - 3-for-9 ; Yale - 5-for-6
Sprints: USC - 3-for-4 (1st, 2nd, 3rd) ; Yale - 1-for-4 (4th)
Yale University goalie Keith Rubin saves a shot by USC's Cem Carak
2011 National Collegiate Club Championship Runner-Up: Yale University
2011 National Collegiate
Club Championship Third Place: University of Florida