PALO ALTO — Adam Wright brought down the team’s video cameras as the buzzer sounded to prove that the game should’ve had a different turnout.
“We had a chance to put the game into overtime,” the coach said. “Sometimes we make decisions (because) we’re tired that aren’t the smartest, so we gave them an opportunity that they shouldn’t have had.”
After recording its first shutout in over two years to beat No. 8 Pepperdine (11-7, 1-0 GCC) 10-0, No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (18-1, 0-1 MPSF) gave up a buzzer beater in the semifinal game of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Invitational, falling to No. 1 Stanford (13-0, 1-0) 8-7.
The Cardinal scored the only goal of the first quarter on a power play with 4:20 remaining. The Bruins struggled to put away any of their power play shots, going 0-of-4 in the period.
The Bruins tied it up after freshman attacker Jake Cavano scored early in the second quarter. The Cardinal extended their lead to as many as three goals before sophomore utility Evan Rosenfeld netted one to make the score 4-2 at the halftime.
“We recognize we were having a letdown in the second period,” Wright said. “We weren’t moving in and out, letting the guys fake the ball. We had so many chances to put ourselves in a much better position.”
The Bruins tied the game in the third quarter with goals by Cavano, freshman attacker Matthew Kacura, and sophomore center Quinten Osborne. The Bruins outscored the Cardinal 3-1 to tie it up 5-5 going into the final frame.
Cavano said the team regrouped at halftime and stuck to its playbook in order to have a successful third quarter.
“We just refocus,” Cavano said. “(We) went over what we talk about at the beginning of the game. We just hop back in and didn’t make any changes.”
The Bruins and Cardinal exchanged multiple goals in the final quarter. UCLA took its first lead with sophomore attacker Nicolas Saveljic’s second goal of the game with 2:18 left to play.
The Bruins believed they had scored one more, but the offense was judged to have been inside the 2-meter mark, negating the goal. The Cardinal scored twice more, including the goal with one second left on the clock to steal the victory.
Despite the close loss, Kacura said the team will bounce back.
“Just like any other game, we’re going to go train and prepare,” Kacura said. “We’re not going to look too much into it. We just need to recognize our mistakes and capitalize on them.”
In the victory over Pepperdine, UCLA shut out its opponents over a full game for the first time since beating UC Irvine in 2016. Redshirt junior goalie Alex Wolf made several saves to keep the Waves at bay for the first three quarters.
The Bruins play again Sunday against No. 4 California (14-2, 0-0) in the third place game. Wright said how his team performs against the Golden Bears will be a good test for his young roster.
“It’s great for us,” Wright said. “It’ll be a sign of where we are as a team. Obviously an emotional game tonight. This is a great opportunity for us to play when we’re tired and after a tough loss. We’ve got to look forward.”