The Bruins start the postseason Friday against last year’s defending champions.
Fresh off a triple-overtime victory against their cross-town rival on Saturday, No. 3-seeded UCLA (18-3, 1-2 MPSF) faces No. 2-seeded California (18-2, 2-1) at the MPSF tournament Friday.
UCLA has split a pair of games with Cal this season, with the Bruins winning 9-8 in double overtime in September and the Golden Bears winning 12-9 a month later.
Freshman attacker Nicolas Saveljic has scored five goals against Cal this season, but he sees the goal scorers from day-to-day.
“One day it’s me, one day it’s someone else. It actually doesn’t matter,” Saveljic said. “We did a great job when we finished the season. Now it’s going to be a hard weekend.”
UCLA senior utility Alex Roelse has scored seven goals in the past three games, a consistent performance heading into the postseason.
“I try to be consistent, every stroke, every possession, be focused and aware,” Roelse said. “I don’t really look to who scores the goals.”
Roelse’s consistency in performance, in addition to his season-long development, was also noted by coach Adam Wright.
“I think his biggest thing this year is how consistent he’s been,” Wright said. “The development this season has been actually really incredible so you know the reality is he’s put himself in a position to always be successful.”
On the defensive side, Cal has averaged 13 goals per game offensively this season, establishing a dynamic counterattack. A focus of training this week has been how the Bruins can neutralize this offensive breakout.
“We’ve got to be extremely smart. … The last time we played them here, we gave them the ability to counter. We gave up a lot of countergoals,” Wright said. “How we want to play and how we want to control the ball and that’ll be a key factor, really, for the game.”
Roelse noted one way to address the strategy of the counter would be through a quick offensive transition.
“In our offense, we try to prepare for defense, and play the attack fully. And when we attack the correct way, we’ll put them in a vulnerable position,” Roelse said. “I think when we do that I think it’ll be much harder for them to go through our front court defense.”
UCLA and Cal have faced each other before in the MPSF tournament. Last year, UCLA won 11-10 in overtime, before losing to USC in the final. Two years ago, the teams met in the final of the tournament, when UCLA won by a slim margin of 12-11 to capture its first MPSF tournament win since 2011.
Automatic entry into the NCAA Tournament is also at stake. The overall winner of the MPSF championship will be selected for the national tournament after Thanksgiving.