Tonight is about redemption.
Last weekend, the UCLA men’s water polo team had its hopes of reaching the finals in the SoCal tournament dashed by California in the semifinals. Tonight, the Bruins face the Bears once more but this time on home turf.
After an unexpected loss to Cal that knocked them down to third place in the SoCal tournament this past weekend, the Bruins are looking to take one for themselves.
“(The loss was) motivation. We don’t like to lose ““ especially to a team like Cal,” said redshirt junior goalkeeper Matt Rapacz.
This weekend, UCLA will face two fellow members of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation ““ Cal (11-2) and UC Irvine (10-6).
The first foe will be the Golden Bears tonight. For the opening of their MPSF schedule, the Bruins will have home court advantage at Spieker Aquatics Center.
The home atmosphere at UCLA spurs the team on, according to Rapacz.
“It really gets us amped up and ready to go.”
“We love playing at home. … As someone who attended UCLA, I hope that when you have a team in the top three in the nation … you should be motivated to come out,” said coach Adam Wright.
UCLA has faced Cal not only in the SoCal tournament but also in the NorCal tournament, where it beat the Bears, 6-5.
The teams have flipped around the top spots in the nation this year, and a new shift occurred in this week’s NCAA rankings. UCLA and Cal switched places, as the Bruins moved down to No. 3 and the Bears moved up to No. 2. Both teams have been steady MPSF and NCAA contenders in recent years.
UCLA is sticking to a basic plan in terms of preparation for this weekend’s games. Having seen both Cal and UCI at the SoCal tournament last weekend, the Bruins are sticking to working on their defense and letting their offense come together, as it usually does, according to redshirt sophomore defenseman Chris Wendt.
The team is going into this weekend with confidence, having seen the way that both teams play already this season.
“We know what we need to do for each team,” Wendt said.
The team reiterated its hope to limit each team to six goals, a strategy it has relied on this season. According to the team, when the other team scores six goals, it has a good chance of scoring more than them and ultimately winning.
UCLA spent less time in practice focusing on the Anteaters this week since Cal was the more immediate threat.
“Our first worry is Cal ““ thats who we’re concentrated on,” Wright said. “Overall, we’re just trying to get better.”
UCLA has not played UCI so far this season, but as they are both in the MPSF, they have faced one another many times in the past.
The Bruins are looking to hold onto a six-game win streak against the Anteaters that carries over from past seasons. UCLA will face them in Irvine at UCI’s Anteater Aquatics Complex on Sunday at noon.
The Bruins’ goals for the weekend aren’t particularly complex.
“Just to beat them,” Rapacz said with a smile. “Just to make sure that they don’t win.”