The Tigers have never beaten the Bruins, and that streak continued Thursday afternoon.
No. 1 UCLA men's water polo (20-3) got out to an early lead over Princeton (26-8) and never looked back, picking up a 12-6 victory in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament to clinch a spot in the semifinals for the seventh time in eight years. The Tigers came into Thursday's match at Spiker Aquatics Center 0-15 against the Bruins all-time, and the host team snuffed out the competition to make it 16 in a row against their Ivy League foes.
The runaway win stood in sharp contrast to the tense matchups UCLA had to endure through the MPSF tournament en route to the conference championship, squeaking out a 6-5 win in the semifinals over USC and 11-10 win over Stanford in the finals.
This time, even after Princeton blew out Fordham 17-8 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Nov. 27, the Bruins made quick work out of the Tigers.
Graduate attacker Chase Travisano, redshirt freshman attacker Gianpiero Di Martire and redshirt sophomore utility Giorgio Alessandria scored three goals in under four minutes to put UCLA up 3-0, and after Princeton picked up a goal off a penalty, junior attacker Timmy Gruwell answered a mere 24 seconds later.
That wasn't the only goal Gruwell would chip in on the day, however, as he answered the Tigers' next goal early in the second period. Another 3-0 run by UCLA made it 8-3 heading into the final moments of the first half, and when Princeton scored less than a minute before the break, Gruwell once again countered with a goal of his own to cap off his hat trick.
All three of Gruwell's goals came less than 30 seconds after Princeton goals, immediately stemming the tide on any of the Tigers' momentum and ultimately helping the Bruins wrap up the win nice and early. By halftime, UCLA was up 9-4, and they could have stopped scoring entirely and still won comfortably given how well they slowed down Princeton's attack from then on out.
Both teams' offensive output slowed drastically across the final two frames, and each period would have been split 1-1 if not for a garbage time goal by Di Martire with half a minute left and the match already decided.
Junior goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi got the start in net and went three quarters deep, making five saves, before handing things over to sophomore Garrett Griggs in the fourth to add another three saves.
UCLA will come face to face with in-state MPSF rival Cal in the semifinals on Saturday, with the match set to start at 4 p.m. The Golden Bears handed the Bruins two of their three losses this fall, and USC – which is still alive on the other side of the bracket – is responsible for the other.
Regardless of who lies in their path, UCLA is now just two wins away from claiming its second-straight NCAA title and third in five years.