The Bruins conclude the regular season Saturday against their crosstown rival.
After winning their last matchup, No. 4 UCLA men’s water polo (17-3, 0-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) faces rival No. 2 USC (22-2, 1-1) at home in a game that could impact playoff seedings.
This is the last piece of game action either team will have before the MPSF Tournament on Nov. 17. Coach Adam Wright said he is looking for signs of progress as his team tries to bounce back from conference losses over the last two weekends.
“The big thing for us is still progressing and getting better,” Wright said. “I felt like the last two weeks we absolutely progressed even though we didn’t get the result we wanted up at Stanford. There were a lot of positives. … We know we’re playing an excellent team but at the same time at this point of the year we want to make sure we continue to get better.”
One of the main catalysts behind this progression has been senior center Matt Farmer, who scored 10 goals over the past four games, including three in the Bruins’ last game, a 14-6 victory over No. 11 San Jose State (13-12, 1-3 Golden Coast Conference).
Playing in his final home regular season game, Farmer has never scored against USC in his career but insists he will not change his game from what has been working recently.
“I’m not gonna change anything,” Farmer said. “They play really good defense and they run good zones and were gonna try to execute our game plan no matter what, and if that means that I score that’s great. If it means that I don’t score then that’s great too, it just matters if we get the win.”
Farmer also received some praise from his coach, who has been impressed with the senior’s work ethic and progression into a key player on the team.
“Matt Farmer has done a really nice job over the course of the last few weeks,” Wright said. “The guy has just worked his butt off for a long time here and it’s paying off.”
The rivalry has been close to even in recent years, with the Bruins leading 8-7 since the 2012 season. Their records against each other all time are also very close, with the Bruins holding a slim lead at 84-79-1 against the Trojans.
“It means a lot to me. All our rivalry games, they really do mean a lot to us,” said redshirt sophomore center Raphael Raede. “But we can’t let the fact that it’s a rivalry game get into our heads, make us too emotional.”
While Farmer agrees in part with his teammate, he enjoys being a part of this rivalry between the Los Angeles schools.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Farmer. “It’s really a special thing and it really is a rivalry everytime we go against USC. It’s different than it is against any other team. We treat every game the same when it comes to water polo, but as a school, the rivalry with USC is really fun to be a part of.”