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UCLA men’s water polo defeats No. 1 UCSB in SoCal Invitational semifinals

Sophomore attacker Matthew Kacura scored two goals in the second half in UCLA’s 9-8 victory over No. 1 UC Santa Barbara (Kanishka Mehra/Assistant Photo editor).

Men's water polo


No. 1 UC Santa Barbara8
No. 2 UCLA9
No 7. California9
No. 2 UCLA12
Pomona-Pitzer2
No. 2 UCLA12

By Jason Maikis

Sept. 28, 2019 7:17 p.m.

The Bruins toppled the giant-slayers.

No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (9-0) defeated No. 1 UC Santa Barbara (15-1) 9-8 in the semifinals of the SoCal Invitational on Saturday. So far this season, UCSB has beaten then-No. 1 Stanford, then-No. 1 USC and then-No. 4 California.

The first period started with a bang when redshirt senior goalkeeper Alex Wolf saved a penalty shot on the opening possession of the game, but the scoring picked up with four goals in the final 2:06 of the first quarter, which ended with the Bruins up 3-2.

“We’re going to make mistakes,” said UCLA coach Adam Wright. “But we can’t allow the easy goals we did in the beginning of the game, the mental lapses like that just won’t work at this level.”

With 6:42 left in the second quarter, goalkeeper Danny Roland matched his former teammate, Wolf’s, first-quarter feat. After freshman center Gabe Discipulo drew an exclusion, Roland saved a penalty from UCLA junior attacker Nicolas Saveljic to keep UCSB’s deficit at one goal.

The score at the half was 6-5 Bruins, and each team would add two goals in the third – both of UCLA’s from sophomore attacker Matthew Kacura – to enter the final period 8-7.

“We build a reserve in practice every day and that leads us into the games,” Kacura said. “We go in and do what we have to do, then come game time we just can’t be caught off guard or let people into our heads.”

It took until 4:39 in the fourth for the score to change again, with UCSB attacker Leo Yuno tying the game for the sixth time at eight goals apiece.

Then, with 45 seconds left in regulation and two on the shot clock, a foul gave sophomore attacker Ashworth Molthen the time and space to uncork a lefty shot that skidded into the bottom right corner giving UCLA the 9-8 lead and eventual victory.

Molthen credited his game-winning goal to his experience putting shots on net in those kinds of situations and getting lucky.

“Usually (last-second shots) I try to just throw my best shot,” Molthen said. “I try to put the most energy I can on the ball and pray for it. This time it went in.”

With one last possession, UCSB couldn’t muster a shot and the Bruins held the ball out to advance to the finals of the SoCal Invitational.

Wolf finished with thirteen saves in the effort and Molthen led the team with three goals while chipping in two assists.

The goalie in the Gaucho cage was Roland, who transferred from UCLA to Santa Barbara after redshirting his freshman season in 2018.

“He’s my friend outside the pool, but in the water it’s business,” Kacura said.

California

UCLA advanced to the semifinals after defeating No. 7 California (9-4) 12-9 earlier in the day, leading the battle between UC rivals from wire-to-wire.

After a close battle in the first quarter, a 6-3 run in the second and third quarters buoyed by three goals from sophomore attacker Jake Cavano extended the Bruins lead to 9-5.

Not ready to go away, California surged back with two goals at the end of the third period and one to start the fourth, thwarting the UCLA attack on three consecutive trips – including a shot from Discipulo that spun on the goal line before being saved.

UCLA stopped the bleeding, using all 30 seconds of the ensuing shot clock before Molthen sent a laser through the top right corner of the goal.

“The offensive system is meant to get ourselves out of ruts,” Molthen said. “It helps with the little things, which makes us start moving and makes the defense respect us a little bit more, and those are the kinds of habits that bring goals.”

Another Molthen score stretched the Bruin lead to 11-8 – and after a Cal penalty miss – an exclusion drawn by redshirt sophomore defenseman Bailey Jarvis resulted in a Saveljic penalty shot for his only score of the game.

The game was a physical affair resulting in 30 combined exclusions between the two teams. Junior utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim led the Bruins in the category, drawing six exclusions from the 2-meter position.

Bruin goalkeeper Wolf won the duel in the cage – recording a .500 save percentage to Cal goalie Adrian Weinberg’s .294.

Pomona-Pitzer

The Bruins established their physical play early in the weekend.

UCLA overpowered Pomona-Pitzer (5-4) 12-2 in the first round Friday behind 10 drawn exclusions and 16 steals. Brozyna-Vilim and freshman utility Cameron Reagan led the charge with three each of the 10 Bruin exclusions, which resulted in seven Bruin goals – five powerplay and two penalties.

Brozyna-Vilim, along with Molthen and Cavano, led the scoring charge with two goals each, and nine total Bruins found the back of the net.

Freshman goalie Bernardo Maurizi steered UCLA from the back, tallying 11 saves to just two goals allowed and throwing in three steals for good measure.

 

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Jason Maikis | Alumnus
Maikis joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2018 and contributed until 2019. He was an assistant Sports editor in 2019 and contributed for the football, men's basketball, men's tennis, women's tennis and men's water polo beats.
Maikis joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2018 and contributed until 2019. He was an assistant Sports editor in 2019 and contributed for the football, men's basketball, men's tennis, women's tennis and men's water polo beats.
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