This post was updated Sept. 1 at 8:19 p.m.
The Bruins never trailed, but Adam Wright said their defense needs some polishing.
“The big thing is, defensively, we have to get better (because) we’re giving up too many goals,” the coach said. “For us, we can learn a lot from this because I think we can do a better job in how to play great positional defense and investing in what kind of defense we play.”
No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo won its first three games Saturday to kick off its season. The Bruins hosted the UCLA Invitational, where they defeated Fresno Pacific, Whittier and No. 18 Pomona-Pitzer before facing No. 2 USC in an exhibition game.
UCLA gave up 22 goals in the three games combined, but allowed just seven in two games combined at the UCLA Invitational last year.
The Bruins beat the Sunbirds 17-7 in the first game. Twenty field players from Wright’s 26-player roster saw action in the pool, while two out of the three goalies took the cage.
Redshirt junior goalie Alex Wolf, who led the team in saves with 193 during UCLA’s championship season last year, did not suit up Saturday.
UCLA led 11-2 at halftime with redshirt junior goalie Jonathan Van De Welde in the cage. Freshman goalie Danny Roland took the cage in the second half, when UCLA’s zone defense allowed Fresno Pacific to score 5 goals.
“We’re not doing a good job in our zones, moving in and out of our blocks,” Wright said. “That’s what this week is about. We’re seeing where we’re at and finding out that we have to get better on the defensive end.”
In UCLA’s second game, sophomore center Quinten Osborne registered two earned exclusions and 1 goal in the first four minutes of the game, but Roland – who started instead of Van De Welde – allowed the Poets to score 4 goals and stayed within three.
UCLA, however, strung together a 13-1 run throughout the rest of the game to take Whittier down 20-5. Thirteen different Bruins scored in the lopsided contest, scoring 20 goals on 32 attempts as a team.
“Throughout the offseason (Osborne and I) worked hard and realized that losing guys like (graduated center Matt Farmer),” said sophomore utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim. “So we realized that we (both) have to step up into that role.”
The Bruins faced the Sagehens in the third game. Pomona-Pitzer trailed 5-3 at the end of the first quarter, and kept the margin within five until the final frame. But UCLA pulled away in the fourth period for a 18-10 victory.
Brozyna-Vilim logged a career-high with 4 goals against Fresno Pacific and finished with 5 goals in the tournament.
Osborne also had a career-high 4 goals in the second and third games. The sophomore led the team in scoring with 10 goals in the three games combined, after finishing with just 10 goals on the season last year.
“We’ve been working a lot on releasing for the ball (to get Brozyna-Vilim and I those looks inside),” Osborne said. “But we still have a lot of work to do, especially with not taking risky passes and treating the ball with respect.”
On the day, UCLA shot 57.3 percent from the field and converted on 72.2 percent of their power play opportunities in the three games combined.
The Bruins will travel to the Princeton Invitational in New Jersey on Friday, facing Wagner, No. 19 St. Francis-Brooklyn, Air Force, No. 15 Brown and No. 14 Princeton.