The Stanford men's water polo team has been building toward this moment ever since last year ended in disappointment.
"We have completed a lot of goals this season but we have one more goal," Stanford goalie Oliver Lewis said after the Cardinal beat UC San Diego, 16-7, in the NCAA semifinal round Saturday. "We're not done. We have a big one tomorrow."
Lewis, who recorded 15 saves against the Tritons, is referring, of course, to Sunday's 3 p.m. national title match at Avery Aquatic Center against USC, which beat UCLA, 8-7, in the other semifinal.
"It's been a process since day one and that's been since the end of last season," Stanford's Ben Hallock said. "A lot of guys have put in a lot of work and we've come so far."
The Cardinal (21-2) reached the title game for the first time since 2008 and will be looking for its first title since 2002, when a young Tony Azevedo led Stanford to the title.
Azevedo was on hand Saturday and saw Stanford play a near-flawless third period that put some distance between the Cardinal and UC San Diego.
The Tritons (20-6) have been a tremendous third-quarter team, outscoring opponents 79-35 in the period this season. Stanford held them scoreless to help turn a one-goal game into a healthy six-goal advantage early in the fourth period.
"Our identity is feeding off of our defense," Lewis said. "Stops on defense push us straight into our counterattack. When I make a block, I get fired up and try to push the team the other direction and score a goal."
Stanford and the Trojans have played twice this season, with the teams splitting the series. The Cardinal won, 13-11, on Oct. 6. The Trojans took a 10-9 victory eight days later.
"It is going to be a tough, emotional game," Cardinal Blake Parrish said. "For us, as seniors, to have here and to be in the championship game is special."