A strong defense and extraordinary two-meter play by Sean Kern were the key ingredients Sunday in UCLA's 6-5 victory over Stanford in the NCAA men's water polo final at UC San Diego.
In front of an announced crowd of 2,422, the top-seeded Bruins won their sixth NCAA title. It's the first time a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion has won the title since the NCAA tournament changed its format five years ago. The previous four titles were won by the MPSF runner-up.
Kern, named the tournament's most valuable player, scored four goals, including the winner with 4:32 to play.
"We were just sticking to the same game plan we've been using the last third of the season," he said.
Said Stanford Coach Ben Quittner: "I think [Kern] showed why he's the best two-meter player in the nation. I think we did a good job on defense. We didn't get some calls. But he's tough to stop."
Stanford (22-6) never established a two-meter game against the UCLA defense, taking most of its shots from outside the four-meter area.
"We worked all week to reestablish that chemistry we had in the water on defense," said Matt Armato, whose steal set up the winning goal. "Because of the type of game we play, defense dictates what we're going to do the rest of the game."
UCLA (22-3) dominated the second half after falling behind, 4-1, in the second quarter.