Monday, May 25

Third-quarter quelling has been key to men’s water polo’s near-perfect record

Senior attacker Austin Rone said UCLA men’s water polo has been finding opportunity in the third quarter of games this season to put opposing teams away. Rone has scored 22 goals this year for the Bruins. (Liz Ketcham/Assistant Photo editor)

Following the halftime break, the switch turns for the Bruins.

Although No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (19-1) fell for the first time this past weekend, third quarters have been one of the Bruins’ bright spots for the past month.

UCLA has won the third quarter outright 66.7 percent of the time over the last nine games, outscoring its opponents 29-17 in third periods.

Coach Adam Wright said that halftime is when his players are realizing that they are not playing their best.

“There’s nothing special that we’re doing,” Wright said. “It’s them catching themselves and recognizing they’ve got to get themselves back on track. Whether its their energy or their focus or whatnot.”

The Bruins have won 15, lost seven and tied five of the 27 other quarters over this nine-game span – a 55.6 percent win-rate.

Freshman attacker Jake Cavano said the halftime meetings just reiterate what the pregame game plan says and allow the team to focus on its goals.

“We just refocus,” Cavano said. “(We) went over what we talk about at the beginning of the game. We just hop back in and didn’t make any changes.”

The Bruins have had a few game-changing third quarters in the past few weeks. The Bruins outscored the Cardinal 3-1 in the third to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-5 game going into the final quarter against No.1 Stanford (13-1, 1-0 MPSF).

UCLA scored six unanswered goals against Santa Clara (5-9, 1-2 WWPF) in the third to make a 5-5 score 11-5 before the fourth quarter. UCLA also defeated No. 18 San Jose State (4-11, 0-1 GCC) behind a 4-1 third quarter that put the game out of reach for the Spartans.

Senior attacker Austin Rone said it is during the third quarter when the Bruins are seizing their chances to take over games.

“Everyone has to be ready to step up,” Rone said. “It’s all about when the opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to go for it.”

Following a two-week break, UCLA will face No. 4 California (14-3) on Oct. 27. The Golden Bears were one of the two teams to outscore the Bruins in the third quarter over the last nine games.

Wright said the Bears’ movement makes the matchup tough, and the Bruins’ power plays have to improve in their next game.

“They’re one of the best moving teams in the country,” Wright said. “We’re going to have to learn how to play better positional defense. Also our 6-on-5 has to get a whole lot better.”

Assistant Sports editor

Perez is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's water polo and track and field beats. He was previously a staff writer on the football, gymnastics, beach volleyball, women's water polo and men's water polo beats.

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