Last week, UCLA men’s water polo defeated three NCAA top-five teams and claimed the No. 1 spot in the collegiate rankings.
This week, however, was different.
The No. 1 Bruins (12-1) suffered their first loss of the season to the No. 7 UC Irvine Anteaters (9-4) after going undefeated in its first 12 games of the season. UC Irvine handed UCLA a 9-8 upset at the Anteater Aquatics Complex.
“We decided not to show up and be ready for that game,” said coach Adam Wright. “It’s really the bottom line. We deserved to lose. From an energy standpoint, from a focus standpoint, from an effort standpoint … on all levels.”
UC Irvine never led UCLA by more than a single goal.
In the second quarter, leading scorer and freshman attacker Nicholas Savelijic scored his first goal of the game and gave the Bruins their first lead at 4-3.
UCLA entered the second half up by one goal, but lost the lead late in the third quarter. UC Irvine had an 8-7 lead with little over three minutes to play.
With less than two minutes on the game clock, senior utility Alex Roelse tied the game by scoring from the five-meter line.
UC Irvine’s attacker Antoine Lena retaliated and scored with 39 seconds remaining, handing UCLA the upset and its first loss of the season.
“The older guys do a nice job of trying to set the tone of what kind of culture we want to have and what kind of intensity we want to have at training everyday, but they are still evolving too,” Wright said. “As far as the fourth quarter from top to bottom, nobody was ready yesterday.”
The freshmen class pushed to keep the Bruins in the game. Freshman attacker Luke Henriksson tied the game up at 1-1 after an early 1-0 lead by Irvine in the first quarter.
Freshman attacker Chasen Travisano tied the game back up at two in the second quarter, while sophomore attacker/utility James Vlachonassios added a goal of his own.
“The reality is last year, I think we were in a much different place with a veteran team,” Wright said. “We are just scratching the surface with this new group right now with what we are trying to do and how we are trying to operate as a team.”
UC Irvine’s Fynn Schuetze led the scoring for the Anteaters with four goals on the day, while Lena had three. It was Lena’s goal at the end of the third quarter that put UC Irvine ahead of UCLA 6-5 and ultimately his last shot that secured the Anteater’s win.
“It could be one of the greatest lessons that we could have dropping a game yesterday like we did but that will question: Where does this team want to go? We will see starting at training Monday,” Wright said.
Moving forward to next week, the Bruins will face No. 9 Pepperdine in Malibu, California, on Saturday.