With the top men’s water polo teams in the nation converging in Irvine for the UCI Invitational this past weekend, the competition was bound to be close and fierce.
UCLA found out the hard way that someone has to lose.
The Bruins went down 5-4 to Stanford in the consolation game of the invitational, finishing out a tough weekend that turned from dominant offensive outbursts to nail-biting, low-scoring affairs.
“It’s really tough to lose the close ones,” junior attacker Ben Hohl said. “We feel like we’ve played Stanford close all three times we’ve played them this season, and they managed to come out on top again this time around.”
The showdown with Stanford was set up after the Bruins dropped a 9-8 thriller against archrival USC earlier on Sunday.
UCLA had defeated the Trojans by a goal in the first meeting between the two teams this season, and Sunday’s match was another back and forth contest.
Redshirt senior attacker Scott Davidson led the Bruins with three goals against USC, including the 6-on-5 equalizer with 3:15 to play. The Trojans scored the deciding goal when senior Shea Buckner converted a penalty shot past Lapin with 1:49 left.
The Bruins’ four losses this season have come by a combined five goals, an indicator of how well the defense has performed and how close the competition at the top of the rankings is.
“We rely on our defense a lot to spark us and get us in position to win the game,” Hohl said. “We did a good job of holding teams down defensively, but unfortunately we couldn’t always convert things at the offensive end. Because of that, we came up just a goal short in a couple of the games.”
On Saturday, UCLA opened tournament play in a dominant fashion over Redlands and Long Beach St. The Bruins defeated Redlands 14-4 in the morning, then knocked off the No. 8 49ers in the afternoon.
With both games being put out of its opponents’ reach early, UCLA was able to showcase its impressive depth. Twelve different Bruins scored in the win against Long Beach St. after nine players tallied in the victory over Redlands.
Freshman Griffin White led the offense on Saturday, totaling six goals in the two games.
The Bruins host California Friday night at the Spieker Aquatics Center.