Water Polo Falls To No. 1 UCLA in NCAA Semifinals

Water Polo Falls To No. 1 UCLA in NCAA Semifinals

LOS ANGELES - Luke Pavillard scored three goals, but the No. 5 Pacific men's water polo team fell in the NCAA Semifinals to No. 1 UCLA, 11-9, Saturday at USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Pacific also received two goals from Ben Stevenson and Luis Araya, and a goal each from Engin Ege Colak and Andres Schmidt.

UCLA (20-4) advances to the national championship game, while Pacific wraps the 2017 season at 21-6 and finishes in the top four nationally for the fourth time in five years.

The Bruins opened to a 2-0 lead as the Tigers were whistled for a pair of offensive fouls and Jack Grover and Nicolas Saveljic scored. Colak tapped in an entry pass from Andres Schmidt to cut the Bruins lead to 2-1. After Tim Reeves drew an exclusion the Bruins, Pavillard ripped home a power-play goal to the far side from three meters out to tie the game at 2-2. After a turnover, Pavillard scored in transition, skipping it under the arm of UCLA goalie Alex Wolf.

Midway through the second, Alex Roelse tallied for UCLA to tie the game at 3-3. Max Irving skipped a shot inside the near post for a 4-3 Bruins lead with 2:41 left in the half. The Bruins were awarded another power play and Saveljic capitalized for a 5-3 lead. Pavillard spun around a defender and had a one-on-one with the goalie, but was pulled down from behind and play continued as the Bruins carried a 5-3 lead into the half.

Early in the third, Felix Brozyna-Vilim snuck into the two-meter and scored to the top right for a 6-3 UCLA advantage. Pavillard skipped home his third goal of the game to close within 6-4. But Irving answered with a long-range goal that snuck by the keeper for a 7-4 lead. Pacific hit a pair of posts on the next possession, and UCLA went back on the power play. Saveljic finished from the wing with 4:11 to go in the third for an 8-4 UCLA lead.

Luis Araya finished with a spinning back-hand off a pass from Pavillard. But Buck Farmer responded with a goal from Austin Rone. Colak hit the post on a Pacific 6-on-5, but Schmidt grabbed the rebound and Stevenson hit the back of the cage to close with 9-6 with 1:04 left in the third.

Off a UCLA exclusion, Colak flicked a shot on goal that knocked down by a charging Wolf. But Schmidt was right there to push the rebound over the line to close the gap yo 9-7 with 7:35 to go. Osmanovic posted back-to-back saves, but Tiger entry passes into the two-meter were smothered by physical defense. The Tigers were called for an exclusion defending the two-meter and Grover finished for a 10-7 lead.

Stevenson hit the cross bar and Colak swatted the rebound off the post. But Araya was there to slam home the second rebound to bring Pacific to within 10-8. UCLA was instantly awarded an exclusion, but Osmanovic stonewalled the shooter. However, off the corner throw, Roelse finished to restore a three-goal UCLA lead with 2:04 to go.

Pacific fed Pavillard in the two-meter, but he was dragged down again. With UCLA spreading the pool, the Tigers had only time left for Stevenson to send a blast to the top right which cut the margin to 11-9 with 18 seconds left.

Alen Osmanovic made eight saves in goal, and surrendered seven goals in 25:57 of time in the cage.

The second goal of the game for Stevenson was his 173rd career goal with the Tigers, as he finished sixth on the Tigers' all-time scoring list.

Pavillard scored 10 goals with four assists in the Tigers' three NCAA Tournament games. He finished the 2017 season with 81 goals, as the redshirt freshman moves to 19th on Pacific's scoring list. Seniors Devon Thumwood (151 goals, 14th), Kale Ai (88, 29th) and Tim Reeves (78, 33rd) also finish their Pacific careers in the Tigers' all-time top 40.