In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Spieker Aquatics Center, a pair of elite water polo teams put on a show worthy of their audience.
In the end, No. 1 USC came away with a 7-6 victory over No. 4 UCLA in a back-and-forth thriller that was tied for most of the fourth quarter before USC drew an exclusion penalty on UCLA and scored with 39 seconds left to break the deadlock and secure the victory.
UCLA captain Scott Davidson led a third-quarter salvo that put the Bruins up 6-5 heading into the final period. The redshirt senior attacker put together a three-goal broadside to give UCLA their first lead of the game at 5-4. The Trojans would tie things up again, but UCLA junior attacker Emilio Vieira scored with 6 seconds to give the Bruins a one-goal advantage heading into the fourth.
Davidson scored his first goal of the game to even things up at one late in the third quarter, and after a pair of second-quarter Trojan tallies, UCLA redshirt sophomore attacker Cullen Hennessy notched a goal in the final minute of the first half to cut the deficit to 3-2 heading into the intermission.
The Bruins converted four out of their seven 6-on-5 opportunities, but USC scored on four of their five chances with the man advantage, a statistic that UCLA coach Adam Wright called “the story of the game.”
The much-hyped contest drew a capacity crowd to Spieker Aquatics Center. Hundreds of fans that were denied entrance lined up along the Sunset Recreation Center pathways adjacent to the parking garage, and others found vantage points in the massive pine trees overlooking the pool.
“It’s always a good time when we play ‘SC,” Wright said. “Obviously they’re an excellent team, but I thought our guys did a fantastic job. We played them even until the final seconds. I was proud of our effort.”