With the 2017 season in the books, UCLA men’s water polo must say goodbye to a senior class who will leave behind an impressive legacy.
The Bruins claimed their third title in four years after knocking off USC in the NCAA championship Sunday. This is the second time in which UCLA has won three titles in a four-year span, last occurring between 1969 and 1972.
However, the win also marked the end of one of the most decorated senior classes in program history, which has achieved three national titles, a record breaking 57-game win streak and a 105-10 overall record.
To coach Adam Wright, though, this season may have been the most impressive feat in the seniors’ careers.
“What they were able to do with the influx of a large class of freshmen, and show them just how we are supposed to operate every day, first as people and students, and how we train every day – they did it all,” Wright said.
The Bruins lost four 2016 All-Americans prior to the season, and were given the task of integrating nine new freshmen into the lineup. As Wright mentioned after the win Sunday, most people in the water polo community had written off UCLA early in the season for that reason.
Senior utility Alex Roelse and his fellow senior teammates silenced the outside noise, and focused on making a lasting impact on not only the freshmen, but the entire program.
“Coming into this season, we sat down as a group of seniors and we talked about where we wanted to go, and what kind of stamp we wanted to leave on this program,” Roelse said. “How is this program going to benefit from us this year?”
The Bruins responded by opening the season 11-0, and leapfrogging the Trojans for the No. 1 ranking after taking them down in the final of the MPSF Invitational in September.
Senior attacker Max Irving, who scored a career-high six goals in that game, played a major role for UCLA in bringing home the title over the weekend. After scoring a pair of goals in the semifinal victory over Pacific, he said that he hadn’t had a chance to digest that his collegiate career was coming to an end.
“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” Irving said. “I’ll definitely have some time after its all said and done to think back and reflect but right now I’m trying to focus and just be present.”
Irving went on to score a goal in the championship game. He finished his UCLA career with 133 goals, including a career-high 47 in 2015.
Along with Roelse and Irving, UCLA will lose five other seniors: goalkeeper Aleksandar Ruzic, center Matt Farmer and attackers Jack Grover, Jesse Camou and James Robinson.
Ruzic started four games, splitting time with redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Alex Wolf, while the six position players accounted for 133 of the teams’ 292 goals this season.
Despite the end of this era, the Bruins remain in good hands. With freshman attackers Nicolas Saveljic and Chasen Travisano, who finished first and fifth in scoring respectively, UCLA will remain competitive in part thanks to the mark this senior year’s class left behind.