When asked about weekend games, coach Adam Wright will not discuss anything but the next opponent and neither will the UCLA men’s water polo team.
Their approach is to not look ahead to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament, which is more than a month away, but instead to focus only on the match staring them straight in the face.
And right now, that game is the one against Stanford, the No. 1 team in the country.
For the second weekend in a row, the Bruins face two conference teams ranked in the NCAA top-20 ““ the Cardinal and No. 14 Santa Clara.
This will be the Bruins’ first time facing both the Cardinal and the Broncos this year, but the two teams’ individual strengths should be no surprise.
Stanford and Santa Clara were also competitors in the SoCal Tournament earlier this month, so UCLA has been able to observe their style of play both this season and in previous ones.
“We’re a pretty veteran team, so a lot of us have seen how they play,” redshirt senior attacker Cullen Hennessy said. “But we’re still going to keep preparing and watching game film this week just to be ready.”
UCLA is coming off a record-breaking performance. Against Irvine on Sunday, the Bruins scored 18 goals, the most in an MPSF match since they scored 19 in 1994 against Long Beach State.
“It was good to have a game in between (Cal and Stanford),” Hennessy said. “But we’re just looking to get better and progress as a team. … If we stick to our game plan and execute, we’ll have a good chance to win.”
UCLA has been steady in its approach all season, and that is still unchanging.
No matter how many games they win or lose or their next opponent’s ranking, the Bruins set goals for themselves every week, moving from practices to games with a well-executed plan.
The team often focuses on its defense in practice, and this week is no different, said redshirt senior center Brett Hays.
Many who saw the game are focusing on the 18 goals UCLA scored in its last performance, but Hennessy seems more concerned with the six that the Bruins let into their goal.
“Obviously, offensively we were there, but defensively, we still could have been better,” Hennessy said. “We need more awareness, and there were lapses in certain situations.”
With conference games aplenty down the line, the MPSF Tournament seedings loom high and heavy, but the Bruins try to keep them as far from the forefront of their minds as possible.
Having come off the last two weekends with two losses against Cal, UCLA is working hard to play well for the rest of the season.
“We’re not in the most ideal situation,” Wright said. “But we don’t look any further ahead than the next game, and that’s Stanford.”