Dec. 1, 2007
STANFORD, CALIF. -Led by three goals apiece from seniors Michael Sharf and Jeff Tyrrell, the No. 2-ranked California men's water polo team (27-4) has earned the right to defend its 2006 national title with an 8-5 victory over Navy (29-6) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday afternoon at the Avery Aquatics Center on the Stanford campus. With the win, the Golden Bears will now play No. 1-ranked USC (19-2) at 2 p.m. Sunday for the 2007 NCAA crown. Cal defeated the Trojans, 7-6, on Tyrrell's last second shot in last year's championship match. USC had defeated Loyola Marymount, 8-4, in Saturday's other first round contest.
The Bears utilized a strong defense in their victory over the Midshipmen. Navy jumped out to a 2-1 lead when Mike Mulvey scored on a counterattack with 3:55 in the first period, but Cal came storming back by scoring the next four goals, including two by Tyrrell and goals by sophomore Spencer Warden and junior Trent Calder.
The Midshipmen's Kevin Bell scored a 6-on-5 goal with 7:44 left to start the fourth period to get his team within, 5-3, but Sharf again gave the Bears some cushion by tallying the next two scores, knocking in a shot from seven meters out with 6:58 left, and then finishing a five-meter penalty shot at 6:19 in the match. Navy scored the next two goals behind shots from Aaron Recko (3:22) and Andrew Bingham (1:51) to make the score, 7-5. Finally, Tyrrell put the match away for the Bears by scoring off an assist from Warden with 1:11 for the final 8-5 margin.
Senior goalie Mark Sheredy, last year's NCAA Tournament MVP, recorded 10 saves. The Midshipmen's George Naughton notched 10 saves as well. When Sharf scored the first of his three goals on the day, he became the Bears' single-season record-holder for goals with his 96th goal of the year. Sharf now has 98 goals on the year after entering the season with 101 career goals.
"I think our team was so amped-up to play they looked a little tired, even at the beginning of the match," said Cal coach Kirk Everist. "We struggled a little bit offensively, and you have to give Navy some credit for that. But, you can always play defense, and we did that. When you play defense you are never too far behind, even when you are struggling offensively. Navy played well. It was a good effort on their part."
Cal will be attempting the win its NCAA-record 13 th national title in water polo. The Bears will be facing USC for the fourth time in the NCAA title match on Sunday. Besides topping the Trojans, 7-6, last year, Cal won 10-7 in 1983 and 9-8 in overtime in 1987.
CALIFORNIA 8, NAVY 5