Top-seeded men’s water polo wins first NCAA title since 2002

Dec. 9, 2019, 2:38 a.m.

For the first time since 2002, men’s water polo claimed the NCAA championship. As time expired on Sunday, Stanford coaches and players alike jumped into Chris Kjeldsen Pool in Stockton, California, celebrating the 11th NCAA title and 12th national championship in program history.

Behind hat tricks from redshirt junior Ben Hallock and sophomore AJ Rossman, No. 1 Stanford (21-2, 2-1 MPSF) cruised to a 13-8 victory against No. 5 Pacific (17-6, 5-0 GCC). 

The NCAA title marks the 124th in Stanford history, and second for head coach John Vargas, who led Stanford to the crown in his first season at the helm in 2002. 

“Most of the guys on the team were very aware of how how long it had been since we won,” said Hallock, who was named MVP of the championship. “The championship is a huge credit to the guys who came before us.”

Hallock provided the golden goal in Saturday’s semifinal to edge No. 2 USC, 15-14 and advance the Cardinal to the finals for the second consecutive year. Stanford fell in a 9-8 heartbreaker to USC in last year’s finals.

“To regroup the way we did after [Saturday’s triple-overtime win against USC] is really impressive,” Vargas said.

Stanford jumped to an early lead on Sunday. All three of Rossman’s goals came in the opening frame, helping the Cardinal build a comfortable 6-3 lead by the end of the first period.

Pacific was held scoreless in the second, as Stanford increased its lead to 9-3 by halftime. Senior goalkeeper Andrew Chun recorded five saves in the contest, his lowest total since saving five against Long Beach State on Oct. 15. 

“I thought our defense was unbelievable,” he said. “The amount of energy was amazing.”

Hallock opened the second half with his third and final score of the game. The Tigers responded with two of their own late in the period, but the momentum continued in Stanford’s favor. Each side scored three more in the final quarter, but the Tigers’ efforts were not enough as Stanford closed in on its first title in 17 years.

“Personally, it means everything,” Hallock said. “It’s incredible.”

Hallock and junior Tyler Abramson, who contributed two goals and three assists, were both named to the First Team All-Tournament. Rossman, Chun, sophomore Quinn Woodhead and senior Bennett Williams were all named to the second team.

After six different Stanford programs won NCAA titles last year, men’s water polo became the first program of the 2019-20 campaign to claim a national title. Just three hours and 56 minutes later, and 74 miles down the road, Stanford women’s soccer won the College Cup and NCAA title with a heart-throbbing 5-4 penalty shootout victory against UNC at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. 

Stanford now owns 125 NCAA titles, extending its lead over the rest of the Division I to seven — UCLA holds the second-most titles with 118.

And, in more good news for men’s water polo, the 2020 NCAA Tournament will be held at Stanford’s Avery Aquatics Center. 

Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’

Alejandro Salinas '21 is a Senior Staff Writer after serving as the Managing Editor of Sports for two volumes. Hailing from Pasadena, CA, he studies computer science and biology as a junior. In his free time he enjoys running, playing with dogs and watching sports. Contact him at asalinas 'at'

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