After holding on for a victory in their last meeting with the Golden Bears, the Bruins could not muster up enough offense to take down their rival again.
No. 3 UCLA men’s water polo (19-2, 0-1 MPSF) fell to No. 4 California (16-3, 1-0) 9-7 on Saturday in both teams’ conference opener. The Golden Bears got their revenge after falling to the Bruins two weeks ago in the third-place game of the MPSF Invitational.
The Bruins struggled in the first quarter on offense, with sophomore attacker Nicolas Saveljic the lone scorer for UCLA. The Bears led 2-1 after the first eight minutes.
Coach Adam Wright said the Bears came out with a purpose in the game, and his players made their own lives harder with their poor offensive play.
“You have to give Cal credit. They played with greater intensity,” Wright said. “We were kind of reacting the whole game. We didn’t approach our counter-attack and our frontcourt like we wanted to and it put us in a tough position to score the ball.”
The Bears extended their lead before the end of the first half, going up 5-3. Saveljic scored his second of the day and freshman attacker Ashworth Molthen netted his first in the second quarter.
The Bruins fell behind even further in the third period. Molthen scored for the second time on a power play, but the Bears scored twice to push the lead to 7-4 going into the final frame.
Molthen said Wright told the team that they had a chance to come back in the end.
“He was just telling us to keep going,” Molthen said. “We were just trying our best to push back. We were just a little too short at the end.”
The Bruins cut the deficit to one following goals by sophomore utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim and senior defender Warren Snyder. The Bruins could not finish the comeback, with the Bears scoring before Molthen completed his hat trick. The Bears scored a final goal with one second left to make the final 9-7.
The Bruins held the Bears to their second-lowest scoring total of the season, as redshirt junior Alex Wolf made 11 saves. Brozyna-Vilim said the Bruins’ defensive system helped against the Bears’ counterattack offense.
“We just worked on our system and how it can shut down, their style of play, which is fast,” Brozyna-Vilim said. “They have really good shooters all around, but when we’re really in the zone, we made them move out.”
A couple of Bruins, including freshman attacker Jake Cavano, were unavailable for today’s game, Wright said. He added that one or two players should not dictate how well UCLA plays.
“(Cavano) gives us so much,” Wright said. “The reality is we try not to rely on one, two, three players. We try to rely on the group. It was unfortunate he couldn’t be with us, but we had plenty of opportunities to put ourselves in a position to be successful and we just absolutely did not.”