It’s been the same story for UCLA men’s water polo – lack of consistency, trouble on 6-on-5 opportunities and a young team learning to fill the void of a missing veteran presence.
This past weekend would prove otherwise.
“We were a completely different team,” said coach Adam Wright.
No. 3 UCLA men’s water polo (16-2, 0-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) showed the consistency that it has been searching for after capping off a 12-11 win against No. 5 Pacific (14-4, 3-0 Golden Coast Conference) on Saturday.
“Overall we’ve just matured a lot as a team,” said senior center Matt Farmer. “We’re a pretty young team, we have a lot of guys that haven’t played significant minutes before and we’ve had a couple months to work together as a group and build chemistry.”
One thing was clear from Saturday’s game – the cohesiveness of the team proved to be the defining factor.
The Bruins were in command of the game, and had a six-goal lead at the end of the third quarter against the Tigers, allowing them to drain the clock.
“They controlled the game from beginning to end, and you know, much better awareness and presence so a consistency from quarter to quarter was much better as well too,” Wright said.
The teams’ chemistry has slowly started to take shape just in the waning games this season. Excluding the loss to California on Oct. 21, the Bruins have outscored their opponents 40-26 in their past three games.
“We definitely pride ourselves on defense over offense,” said senior goalkeeper Aleksandar Ruzic. “We don’t care who scores. It’s nice knowing we have some guys who can shoot.”
Attributing to the success of offense is the depth in the center position. Offset by both the senior presence of Farmer and freshmen center Quinten Osborne, the Bruins have found success on the offensive end when pushing the ball up the middle.
“Our centers, (Oswald), (Farmer) (freshman utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim), they do a really nice job,” Wright said. “Obviously, Farmer with his experience, he has really come through here for us in the last couple games. He’s done a really nice job, and it’s really a tribute to his effort the everyday training. He is in the games who he is every day. The guy has just an incredible work ethic and it’s good that it’s paying off.”
Ruzic and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Alex Wolf split time in the cage. Wolf is registering more time in the goal, but both goalkeepers are averaging similar numbers in goals allowed – Wolf is averaging 6.95 while Ruzic 6.63.
“In every situation, everybody’s going to be ready to go,” Wright said. “The nice part is we have two good goalies.”
UCLA will continue to test its consistency in its first matchup against the No. 4 Stanford at the Avery Aquatic Center.