With 40 seconds left and a fifth straight NCAA men's water polo title on the line, not to mention an undefeated season for his team, USC sophomore Kostas Genidounias caught the ball, wound up his big right arm and scored.
The goal gave the Trojans an 11-10 victory over UCLA on Sunday at USC's McDonald's Swim Stadium and caused USC Coach Jovan Vavic to smile and predict a sixth straight title would be coming.
That goal also left UCLA Coach Adam Wright fuming. "The rhythm of the game can be controlled not only by the player but also by people on the outside," he said.
Wright was unhappy that USC had only five exclusions (where players are sent off because of fouls) while UCLA had 10. He also thought one of his players was being held when Genidounias scored the winning goal.
"It will be very interesting and very hard to watch the tape of this game," Wright said. "This is a game of momentum and it can be stopped in many ways. Today it was stopped in an unfortunate way. We knew we were up against the world."
USC led only three times for a total of 3 minutes, 37 seconds in the 32-minute game, including the final 40 seconds after Genidounias scored.
Vavic had a measured response to Wright's post-match emotions. "Officiating is such a huge part of this game," Vavic said. "When you win you love it, when you lose you hate it."
UCLA senior Josh Samuels gave the Bruins their final lead with 3:09 left in the game. Trojans fifth-year senior Michael Rosenthal tied the match at 10-10 and that's how the score stayed until Genidounias's final stunner.
USC finished with a 29-0 record, including three one-goal victories over UCLA (28-5). The Trojans have won 31 in a row since losing to UCLA last season.