The Bruins were in Stanford, California, this weekend, but they weren’t facing their in-conference foe.
No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (5-0) defeated No. 18 San Jose State (0-3) 15-10 Saturday morning to kick off the Stanford Invitational. Nine different Bruins scored in the contest, with six Bruins tying for the lead in scoring with two goals.
Freshman attacker Max Berg said it was mostly the offensive system the Bruins run that allows such a large distribution of scoring, and when the offense is working the way it should, everybody will chip in some of the production.
“We have a very strong system and it’s very team-oriented,” Berg said. “Whoever is ready to invest himself in the system will get the rewards back. And the team as a whole is investing itself, putting energy into the system, and the whole team is reaping the rewards.”
The game was tied five apiece at the half, but UCLA pulled away in the second with a 5-2 third period, starting with a penalty shot from freshman attacker Tommy Gruwell.
Two goals apiece by freshman center Gabe Discipulo and freshman attacker Jack White finished the deal in the fourth quarter. White became the first Bruin to reach double-digit goals this season after scoring eight goals at the season-opening tournament.
What kept the Spartans level with the Bruins for much of the game was their success on the power play. San Jose State went seven-for-seven in its opportunities with a man advantage, outpacing UCLA which only managed four goals on ten attempts playing six-on-five.
“You’ve got to give credit to San Jose State for going seven-of-seven,” said coach Adam Wright. “But in our sport you have to be able to play a man down, and something like that just can’t happen. That was the difference that kept them in the game.”
UCLA went on to play three exhibition matches against professional teams from Italy and the United States to wrap up the weekend. UCLA faced Pro Recco – the 15-time Italian League defending champions – twice over the weekend, losing its first bout 20-10 and falling 15-4 in the second. The Bruins triumphed over Olympic Club – the two-time defending National League champions – by a score of 13-11 Sunday morning.
Playing such elite-level professional teams gave UCLA invaluable experience, Berg said, adding that it helps them find the flaws in their own game.
“(Playing Pro Recco and Olympic Club) is absolutely one of the best opportunities we could have had,” Berg said. “Pro Recco is one of, if not the, best water polo clubs in the world. It exposes a lot of us to a different level of water polo and a different level of precision.”
Redshirt freshman attacker Ryan Sawyer scored six goals in the defeat of Olympic Club, which is the second time a Bruin has scored six goals this season after sophomore attacker Matthew Kacura’s performance against La Salle in the Navy Open on Sept. 8.
There were no individual six-goal games by a UCLA player in the entire 2018 season.
Fourteen Bruins have found the back of the net so far this season, and Sawyer said performances like his come from a commitment of every player on the team to scoring as a unit.
“What allows us to be so successful with everyone scoring is when we play for each other,” Sawyer said. “Everyone else helps each other, we are all setting picks and putting each other in spots to get open. On this team I don’t believe it’s the individual person scoring because it comes from the team.”
After seeing action in three games at the Navy Open, freshman goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi played the first three games at Stanford, including a six-save performance against San Jose State. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Alex Wolf took over between the pipes for the second game against Pro Recco, racking up 17 saves in the loss.
Wolf earned First Team All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation last season and won the MVP award of the 2017 NCAA Championship. Maurizi enters the season having previously played for Rari Nantes Florentia of the Serie 1A – the same league that Pro Recco plays in.
UCLA will continue its trek on the road to start the season – facing No. 8 Pepperdine (8-1) on Sept. 21 – before heading home to host the SoCal Invitational.