Tuesday, September 19

Men’s water polo successful despite coach Adam Wright’s absence

Upon walking into the Spieker Aquatics Center during men’s water polo practice, it is a given that the first thing one will hear is the voice and whistle of coach Adam Wright.

He is a constant presence over the pool, blowing his whistle as the players work and yelling criticisms and congratulations from the sidelines.

During games, he is as close to the pool as possible without actually dipping into the water, constantly interacting with the game and giving instruction as though he can feel exactly what is going on in the pool.

This week, Spieker was a little quieter.

Wright missed this past weekend’s games in addition to practices this week, but it was for a justifiable cause ““ he was competing in Guadalajara for the U.S. Men’s National Water Polo team at the Pan American Games.

Though its ever-present coach was absent from the pool at Pomona this weekend, the team was able to register not only a 14-4 win over Pomona-Pitzer but also a 20-0 shutout over Whittier. It was the first time UCLA blanked an opponent since 1997.

“It was a good feeling, since we stressed defense all season long,” redshirt sophomore utility Chris Wendt said. “To shut out the opponent is what we go for every game. To pull it off felt good.”

The team was able to pull off the wins with ease, even without the presence of their leader.

“I mean, as a team, we do everything for each other,” junior attacker Bret Lathrope said, who scored four goals in the Bruins”˜ shutout on Saturday. “The coach is there to lead us, but he’s not in there playing, we’re there to play for the team.”

Wright has not abandoned the team ““ he and assistant coach Daniel Leyson are in contact on a daily basis. The Bruins are sticking with the coach’s normal practice plan.

“(When Wright isn’t here) there’s a lot more pressure to make sure that I maintain the level of coaching, intensity and instruction that’s here when the head coach is here,” Leyson said. This is Leyson’s first season coaching with UCLA.

This week the team is coming up on a bye, but for the Bruins, that means anything but relaxation.

“This week we’re trying to stay in shape. This is the last final push where conditioning’s really tough for the end of the season. … This is the last big push of conditioning before we just play a lot of really big games,” Wendt said.

The Bruins won’t see action again until a Nov. 4 game against No. 7 Pacific at home ““ and the Bruins will be pushing hard up until then to get through the final stretch of the season.

“We’re working on everything. We’re striving for perfection in everything,” Leyson said.

The team is aware of how lucky they are to have a member of the National team coaching them.

“He’s still learning the game which makes him constantly become a better coach,” Wendt said.

“Which makes us constantly become a better team.”

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