Andrew Mesesan wasn’t fazed by much Saturday night.
His teammate, Matt Rapacz ““ the usual starter in goal ““ sat on the pool deck with a sling protecting his left shoulder.
The long-time star goalkeeper for UCLA, Chay Lapin ““ last year’s starter in goal ““ sat on the other side of the pool, in the crowd, eagerly cheering his old team on.
Mesesan settled into the cage of Spieker Aquatics Center and didn’t let any of that bother him. In his first career start at home, the redshirt junior helped UCLA answer coach Adam Wright’s call for better defense in a 14-6 win over Loyola Marymount University.
Mesesan was thrust into action for the No. 2 Bruins (5-1) at the NorCal Open and came back Saturday to make just his fourth career start against the No. 10 Lions (6-5). He collected six saves and smothered numerous shot attempts.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this, so it’s sweet to finally get out there,” Mesesan said.
It’s fairly apparent there won’t be a shortage of offense for the Bruins this year, but defensive problems plagued the team in an 11-10 loss to USC last week. Mesesan had the task of calling out instructions, and the Bruins buckled down.
“(Wright) says if there’s a time to rest, it’s on offense,” Mesesan said. “Defense is where we’ve got to take care of business.”
Mesesan also had a chance to show off his arm with a couple of nice passes on the counterattack.
“I’d have to say passing has always been off-and-on,” he said. “But it was fun to get out there and throw a few good balls.”
Mesesan may have been the anchor of the defense, but he had help from his teammates. The Bruins were able to get their hands in the way of most of LMU’s chances, resulting in most shots missing the target and easing the load on Mesesan.
“We made a lot of field blocks, and that’s what it’s going to take if you want to win,” Wright said.
Rapacz will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis, but Wright said that Mesesan would be the starter at least through next week’s SoCal Open, which UCLA hosts on Saturday and Sunday.
“I’d love to keep playing, but I also can’t wait for (Rapacz) to get back out there and keep the competitive thing,” Mesesan said.
“I just said “˜Andy, you’ve got to run with this thing. Don’t be nervous, don’t overthink anything. This is your team, you command the defense, you’re the leader on the defense,'” Wright said. “It was a great start for him here at Spieker.”
Despite the fact that the powerhouse teams from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation will be at the tournament next week, the games won’t count in the MPSF standings. But that doesn’t mean the team is understating the importance of coming out on top.
“Next weekend is do or die,” senior defender Emilio Vieira said. “Our season is on the line because we already lost one game to ‘SC.”