Wednesday, April 24

Water polo wins inaugural game at Spieker Aquatics Center


Ryan Eshoff / Daily Bruin

Less than a week into its role as UCLA’s new water sports Mecca, the Spieker Aquatics Center is already making waves.

The facility hosted its first official event Saturday night, as the UCLA men’s water polo team defeated UC Irvine 10-4 in a non-conference match.

Supported by a vociferous capacity crowd, the No. 2 Bruins (9-1) opened their new home and their regular season in fine fashion.

Appropriately, in the first home match of the post-Sunset Canyon Recreation Center era, the game was played after sunset.

“Having never had a home game night game, it was an amazing experience,” redshirt sophomore attacker Cullen Hennessy said. “We had great fan support that made for a great atmosphere. It was so much fun, and the turnout that we had really fed us and helped us get a win against Irvine.”

Aside from the importance of notching a victory against a fellow top-10 team, the night represented an important milestone in the pantheon of UCLA’s legendary athletic department.

Along with the scheduled renovation of Pauley Pavilion, the completion and opening of the Spieker Aquatics Center represents a re-emphasis of sorts on the part of UCLA in regard to its facilities.

As the inaugural participants, those affiliated with the men’s water polo appreciated the significance of the evening.

“Taking the game away for a moment, it was just a historic night for the aquatics program here,” UCLA coach Adam Wright said. “We’ve been waiting so long for this; it’s unbelievable to be able to play under the lights. I think this is the first time in the history of the aquatics program that there have been any lights here at home, and it was pretty breath-taking.”

As a member of the Bruins’ water polo program in a variety of capacities for over a decade, Wright stressed that this was one of the more important nights that he has witnessed during his time in Westwood.

For those who have spent less time with the program, the spectacle was no less impressive.

Junior defender Emilio Vieira transferred to UCLA before this season after playing two years at Golden West Junior College in Huntington Beach.

Before that, Vieira lived in his home country of Brazil and competed for the Brazilian national team.

Even with all his experience, Vieira was impressed by the extravaganza.

“It was amazing to see that there were a ton of people here,” he said. “It was great to see how much this school can support the water polo program, and it was so great to see all of the home crowd cheering.”

“In terms of the schedule and everything like that, getting a win was good,” Wright said. “But the night as a whole was about much, much more than that and it was unbelievable.

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