Adam Wright still isn’t satisfied with the number of goals the Bruins are allowing, but he said the close games have been providing crucial experience for his team.
“(Allowing) eight goals (against UC Davis) was still too many,” the coach said. “But the reality was, we were able to turn it around.”
No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (15-0) logged victories over No. 6 Pacific (5-5) and No. 8 UC Davis (8-4) on the road last week, winning 8-5 and 12-8, respectively.
The Bruins started the season ranked No. 1, coming off a championship season in 2017. But crosstown rival USC was tied with UCLA at No. 1 by Sept. 12, and has since then taken over the top spot, bumping the Bruins to No. 2.
The undefeated Trojans are outscoring their opponents by an average of 14.2 goals per game through 17 contests. The Bruins are also riding a 15-game win streak, but are only outscoring their opponents by an average of eight.
UCLA has never had to overcome a deficit in the first quarter in back-to-back games this season until the matches against Pacific and UC Davis last weekend.
“We were able to come out and put away two games against two tough teams,” said freshman attacker Jake Cavano. “And I think the result is definitely going to help us moving forward.”
Cavano has 15 goals on the season, and is seventh among the Bruins in scoring. The freshman scored two of his three goals against Pacific and UC Davis on six-on-five opportunities.
“Both teams were fighting really hard to give it their best,” Cavano said. “And when that happens there’s going to be a lot more exclusions.”
The Bruins’ intensity has allowed UCLA to draw a high number of exclusions and penalties, which has given the Bruins energy to get back into games while trailing. UCLA earned 19 man-up opportunities and five penalties in the two games combined.
Redshirt sophomore attacker Peter Lovas – who was 2-of-2 from five meters against UC Davis – said practicing penalties are just like practicing free throws in basketball or penalty kicks in soccer.
“You have to be prepared, especially mentally, because the goalie can sometimes decide where he’s going to jump,” Lovas said. “I just try to score as many as I can in practices and try to bring that to our games.”