NEWPORT BEACH — The goalkeeper many people say is the best in the country stared out at an opposing team that probably is the best in the country Sunday afternoon in the final of the UC Irvine water polo tournament.
Dan Hackett, UCLA's All-American goalie, was looking at California, the defending NCAA champion, a team capable of unleashing flurries of goals.
"Dan played real solid and kept us in the game," said UCLA Coach Guy Baker, after his team lost to the Golden Bears, 8-5, in front of 250 at Corona del Mar High School. "It's great we got second. There's no disgrace in losing to Cal."
In the third-place game, Cal State Long Beach defeated Stanford, 7-5. Mike Burke, from San Clemente High School, led Long Beach with four goals.
UC Irvine finished fifth after defeating Pepperdine in sudden-death overtime, 10-9, when Pablo Yrizar softly lobbed a shot over Pepperdine goalkeeper Peter Schuler, who attended Foothill High.
Irvine's only defeat in five tournament games was a one-goal loss Friday to UCLA, and Coach Ted Newland was pleased with the Anteaters' performance after the final game.
"I thought we played really well," Newland said. "The main thing is, we played really good defense."
Cal, which swept through the tournament undefeated in five games, won what was otherwise a close game by scoring four goals in the second quarter. Chris Humbert led Cal with four goals, all in the first half.
Hackett, from Irvine High, had a busy afternoon, making 13 saves. He once made beautiful back-to-back saves only to see a second rebound shot settle in the net behind him.
"Hackett is a very fine goalie," Cal Coach Steve Heaston said. "(But) a goalkeeper's just one of seven."
Baker thought his team's defense held up, but the offense didn't score enough against Cal. He expects the Bruins to be stronger soon, with the return of two veterans who did not play in the tournament--Gary O'Brien, who is completing academic requirements, and Bill Lenihan, who is out with a broken ankle.
UCLA trailed by four goals late in the third quarter, but goals by Marc Heenan and Philip Hadfield cut Cal's lead to 7-5 with 4:09 remaining. Cal's defense stiffened, and Dirk Zeien added a final goal with two seconds left.
In the semifinals earlier in the day, Cal defeated Long Beach, 7-6, on a goal with 1:57 remaining by Chris Oeding, who is from Corona del Mar High. The goal was Oeding's third of the game. UCLA, the tournament's defending champion, advanced with a 7-4 victory over Stanford.
Cal, which won the NCAA championship last season, withdrew from last year's Irvine tournament in the wake of the deaths of three students in a fire at a fraternity house where some of the water polo players are members.
UCLA was pleased to be playing at this year's tournament, after an off-season scare when the program was scheduled to be dropped.
UCLA rallied, raised some money and got a reprieve.
"From the outside looking in, it looked like it was over," said Baker, who was hired after the program was saved.
Heaston volunteered his enthusiasm for UCLA's return.
"UCLA played very well," he said. "It's fantastic they got the program back."