Home games at Spieker Aquatics Center usually guarantee a rollicking home crowd, but on Friday night, the Bruins played to a half-full audience because of poor weather.
But it was the quality of the crowd, not the quantity that made the difference as the fans eight-clapped as loudly as possible to make up for their missing numbers.
“(The home crowd) gives us strength,” sophomore utility Cristiano Mirarchi said. “We don’t want to lose at home, so we had to find a way to win this game.”
Supported by the faithful fans who turned out Friday, No. 1 UCLA (17-3, 3-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) fought their way through a difficult match to beat No. 8 Pacific in sudden victory overtime, 13-12.
“We hung in there,” coach Adam Wright said. “There were plenty of opportunities for us to roll over, and we didn’t.”
Neither team ever took more than a two-point lead and regulation ended tied at 10-10.
In the two periods of overtime, the teams saw the score change and tie twice, moving to 11-11 then 12-12. With six minutes of overtime completed, the teams moved into sudden victory.
Mirarchi managed to net the ball barely a minute in.
At that moment, the meager crowd sounded sold out as the roars of the Bruin faithful rose to new heights.
Prior, Mirarchi had not been making any of his shots. “I was trying to be positive and tell myself that the next time it would be better,” he said.
“Then it was sudden victory, and I scored.”
The Bruins held Pacific’s strong junior center Goran Tomasevic to two goals, who junior utility Josh Samuels called “probably the best center in the country.”
“We managed to crash on him real quick,” Samuels said.
In addition to the conference game against Pacific, UCLA played No. 11 UC San Diego on Sunday in La Jolla, defeating the Tritons 9-4.
The Bruins started scoring early and began the game with a 3-0 cushion. They outscored the Tritons in the first three quarters.
Although they got the exciting win on Friday, the Bruins appeared less than pleased with their performance.
“Where Pacific stands right now doesn’t do them justice, they’re an excellent team,” Wright said. “Our defense wasn’t good, 12 goals is too many.”
One key to the Bruins’ game Friday was redshirt junior goalkeeper Matt Rapacz.
He made blocks for the Bruins in overtime that saved them from a loss. According to Wright, many of Pacific’s 12 goals were not on Rapacz.
“A lot of the balls that went in … should have been field blocks. Plus he came up big in overtime,” he said.
Samuels came up big with a career-high five goals Friday. He scored three penalty shots that kept the Bruins in the game.
Prior to the game, Pacific decided that they wanted to switch sides of the pool with UCLA, which motivated Samuels.
“I was upset. … We start on the same side every game … (and) it was really disrespectful that they did that,” Samuels said.
“We don’t go to their pool and do that. So that had a lot to do with my motivation.”