Thursday, February 20

Men’s water polo sinks to No. 1 seed Stanford 9-7 in MPSF semifinal

UCLA men's water polo made a comeback in the third quarter after sophomore attacker Nicolas Saveljic scored three goals in the period. The Bruins could not complete the comeback, however, and they fell to Stanford in the MPSF tournament semifinals. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

The Bruins’ power play let them down on both sides of the pool.

No. 4 seed UCLA men’s water polo (21-4) fell to No. 1 seed Stanford (19-2) 9-7 in the semifinal of the MPSF tournament at Uytengsu Aquatics Center in Los Angeles.

The Bruins did not score on a power play for the first three quarters. The Cardinal went 2-of-3 on power plays while the Bruins were 0-of-2. Redshirt junior goalie Alex Wolf kept the Cardinal at bay for most of the quarter, registering four saves.

Coach Adam Wright said his team came out lacking the same desire as the Cardinal, and that it cost the Bruins throughout the game.

“The whole problem today is no energy, panicking,” Wright said. “Simply, Stanford wanted it more. It’s disappointing to be honest, if that’s the way we’re going to show up on our last weekend of water polo.”

Freshman attacker Ashworth Molthen also had a penalty blocked, but he later scored to bring the score to 2-1 for the Cardinal before the second quarter.

The Bruins failed to score on all three of their power play opportunities in the second period. The Cardinal added three goals to extend their lead to 5-1 going into halftime.

Sophomore attacker Nicolas Saveljic netted three goals in the third as the Bruins came within one of the Cardinal. However, a Cardinal goal in the final minute made it 7-5 for Stanford at the end of the quarter.

Saveljic said his teammates gave him the chances to score and he put them away to try to rally his team back in the second half.

“Everything was the same,” Saveljic said. “When you want something really bad, it always comes when your team needs it. But everything’s about the team. They’re there for me, I’ll be there for them.

Freshman attacker Jake Cavano scored in his 15th straight game for the Bruins with a fourth quarter goal. The Bruins could not complete the comeback, as the game was scoreless for the final four minutes.

The Bruins finished 2-of-11 on power plays, scoring their first one with 7:12 left in the game. The Cardinal were 4-of-8 in 6-on-5 situations, putting their first two power play chances into goal before the Bruins’ first goal.

Sophomore attacker Chasen Travisano said the Bruins’ lack of focus on power plays allowed the Cardinal to score their chances while the Bruins could not.

“A big thing for our team is being present,” Travisano said. “We didn’t attack the right way. We weren’t present every single time we went down. We had our opportunities, but we couldn’t put them away.”

The Bruins will play the loser of the second semifinal game between No. 2 seed USC and No. 3 seed California on Sunday. The Bruins are 1-1 against the Golden Bears and 0-1 against the Trojans this season.

Wright said the Bruins needs to up their intensity level to have a chance at victory Sunday or they will suffer the same fate as today.

“We’ll see who we can be tomorrow,” Wright said. “The reality is that kind of effort and focus is not good enough at this level. When you’re playing against one of the best teams in the country, that’s what happens.”

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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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