After losing its first game of the year to No. 6 UC Irvine last weekend, No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo spent the week focused on addressing the inconsistencies that continue to haunt the team.
“We have been more focused this week for sure because we can’t afford to waste any more time,” said senior attacker Jack Grover. “It’s a short season with only two months left and we want to make the most of what time we have together.”
UCLA visits No. 9 Pepperdine in Malibu on Saturday. The Waves are 13-6 this season, but remain winless against top-five teams in four tries.
However, UCLA is trying to recover from an unexpected loss suffered just one week after they took down three top-five teams in two days at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Invitational.
“We lost an important game and we had a good weekend the week before,” said freshman attacker Nicolas Saveljic. “We were back in first place and just didn’t play well.”
The Bruins lost 9-8 three days after being ranked No. 1 in the country.
Senior utility Alex Roelse agreed that one of the biggest issues for the Bruins this season has been their inconsistency on a game-to-game basis.
“Our team hasn’t been able to be the same team every single week,” Roelse said. “We could easily avoid things by the way we approach practice, but we usually just let it slide and say we’ll do it the right way in the game.”
UCLA has 10 freshmen on the roster and many of them are still learning how to play at the collegiate level.
Grover said the blend of upper and underclassmen has led to an adjustment period that the team is still trying to work through.
“We have a young team which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Grover. “We have a good mix of older and younger guys, but I still think we are trying to figure out how to play with each other.”
This weekend’s matchup with the Waves, however, will not give the Bruins much time to figure out all of their problems.
Junior attacker Marko Asic has 42 goals on 44 shot attempts for the Waves, 15 more goals than anybody on the UCLA roster. Redshirt senior Mark Urban has also added 29 goals of his own.
Grover said he is well aware of the fire power Pepperdine’s offense possesses.
“They move a lot which will give us a great chance to play drive defense, and they have some really good shooters and shot-blocking is something we need to work on,” said Grover. “They are dangerous.”
The Bruins went 2-0 against the Waves last season, outscoring them 20-8.