Today, 7 p.m.
Spieker Aquatics Center
UC San Diego
Info: The top-ranked Bruins face two talented teams that will do their best to knock them off.
The men’s water polo team is ready and raring to go.
After a long break ““ UCLA hasn’t played a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation member since Oct. 15 and had a bye last weekend ““ the team comes back to MPSF play.
It faces No. 8 Pacific today at home, then No. 11 UC San Diego on Sunday.
The team used the last two weeks to focus solely on conditioning.
As it now moves into the stretch toward the postseason, it needs to be on its best game possible.
Coming out of what redshirt senior attacker Cullen Hennessy called “probably the hardest two weeks all year,” the team is ready to get back to playing some water polo.
“This was a time to recharge our batteries,” coach Adam Wright said.
“The guys worked extremely hard during this period, and we need that down the stretch.”
The time off was beneficial for the team, according to freshman attacker Paul Reynolds.
“We covered some of our cracks. … We think we’ve gotten better,” Reynolds said.
“I guess this weekend, we’ll put that to the test.”
This weekend first brings forth a match against Pacific, a team Wright called one of the best in the country.
Good defense is always important but especially so this week. Pacific is home to junior center Goran Tomasevic.
Junior utility Josh Samuels and Reynolds both stressed that the Bruins are trying to ramp up their center defense in preparation for Tomasevic’s skills.
“We have to help our center guards because he is definitely the best in the country,” Samuels said.
“He’s about (6 feet 6 inches tall), 250 (pounds), and it’s pure muscle.”
The Bruins will also face fellow MPSF member UCSD on Sunday afternoon in La Jolla. The Bruins have yet to face the Tritons this season.
UCLA also got the chance to be spectators rather than players for a game.
The team was able to watch MPSF competitors No. 2 USC and No. 3 Stanford play this past weekend.
The Bruins are familiar with the teams they face this weekend, especially Pacific, who they trained with in the offseason.
It has been awhile since the team faced players it knows so well, but it’s ready.
“It’s always fun when you play a team and you know their players,” said Hennessy.
“It always makes it exciting, more of a rivalry.”
The Bruins know that, as the No. 1 team in the nation, they are not the hunters but the hunted.
Facing teams that are familiar with them brings additional challenges ““ these teams will have an idea of how to beat the Bruin squad.
“(Pacific is) a great team,” said Hennessy. “They’re hungry, and they want to beat us, but we really want to beat them.”
Moving into the final stretch, the air of the practices is getting more vigorous and intense.
According to Reynolds, the coaches have done a good job making sure that the team is ready.
“We’re playing with more intensity but not a sense of panic. Our coaches have made it so we hopefully peak at the right time.”