After claiming the No. 1 spot in the NCAA men’s water polo rankings, UCLA coach Adam Wright is still searching for one thing out of his young team – consistency.
The Bruins dropped their first game of the season to No. 7 UC Irvine on Saturday and the inexperience of the team was a glaring issue.
“From top to bottom, nobody was ready,” said Wright.
The result was unexpected considering that at the MPSF Invitational, UCLA took down three of the top five teams in the nation including then-No. 1 California and No. 2 USC.
However, the Bruins have 10 freshmen on this year’s roster as opposed to the six that were on last season’s squad, and teaching them how to succeed and respond to adversity has been a challenge, Wright said.
“This new group has to learn that you can’t just show up and think everything is going to be alright,” Wright said. “We are trying to be more consistent and we are not there yet.”
Wright is one year removed from a roster that included four All-Americans that all went on to graduate following the season, leaving him with a handful of new faces.
Among the group that left were goalie Garrett Danner and attacker Ryder Roberts, two integral parts of the team that won the 2016 national championship.
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Alex Wolf and senior attacker Max Irving are two of the current players who have attempted to fill those shoes. Wolf recorded three wins in last week’s magical run at the MPSF Invitational and Irving scored six goals against USC in the final.
So far, UCLA is averaging 13.3 goals per game while only allowing just under six goals per game.
Despite starting the year 12-1, Wright said he wants to see his squad play every game with the same consistency and energy levels because each win or loss can count just as much as the last.
“The most important part that they need to really understand here is that it’s different at the college level and one game could be the difference,” Wright said. “Until the whole group understands just how important it is to be consistent, we will have ups and downs like this and that is what we are trying to avoid.”
Last week’s victories against some of the top teams in the country proved that the Bruins are capable of competing at the highest level.
UCLA will have a full week of practice before returning to action for a matchup against No. 9 Pepperdine on Oct. 7 at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool.