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Despite 2 wins, men’s water polo looks to improve performance

Freshman attacker Max Berg scored for the first time in over a month in UCLA men’s water polo’s contest with California Baptist University on Saturday. The freshman’s first two goals came in the Bruins season-opening tournament, a Sept. 8 20-2 defeat of La Salle. (Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Water Polo

No. 20 Cal Baptist6
No. 2 UCLA12
No. 2 UCLA10

By Jason Maikis

Oct. 20, 2019 1:55 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 20 at 11:53 p.m.

The Bruins won two games on the scoreboard, but not in the pool.

“Today was beyond disappointing,” said coach Adam Wright.

No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (14-1) defeated No. 20 California Baptist University (9-12) and Whittier (10-11) by scores of 12-6 and 10-8, respectively, but Wright said the Bruins failed to reach their standards in either of Saturday’s contests.

“The way we approached today is not right for our program, it’s not right for those who came before us, it’s not right for our opponents and it’s not right for the game,” Wright said. “We took a major step backwards today. But this is simply beyond unacceptable. Maybe the scoreboard says one thing, but both those teams outplayed us.”

UCLA’s two-goal margin of victory over Whittier was its lowest against an unranked opponent this season, previously winning by 13 and 18 goals over Navy and La Salle, respectively. UCLA has beaten the four teams ranked directly above Cal Baptist in the polls by an average of nine goals per game.

In its win over Cal Baptist, UCLA received goals from eight players, and junior utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim logged his second-straight four-goal performance. After jumping out to a 3-1 advantage in the first period, the Bruins surged for three straight goals to start the second period and took an 8-4 lead into the half.

UCLA held and extended that lead thanks to four more goals in the second half, including two from Brozyna-Vilim. Redshirt freshman attacker Will Morgan also scored against Cal Baptist – his first goal since the UCLA’s fourth game, a Sept. 8 contest against La Salle in the Navy Open.

Morgan said although there were certain personal victories in Saturday’s contests, the team still didn’t perform the way it should have.

“We play through the system and trust it to score,” Morgan said. “On my goal, the players around me helped me score, but overall we didn’t execute the game plan we wanted to. Our energy was low and the mindset was not where it needed to be.”

UCLA had a closer finish in its second match of the day against Whittier.

Brozyna-Vilim and junior attacker Nicolas Saveljic, the Bruins’ leading scorer in 2018, each scored two goals in the first half to give UCLA a 6-2 lead entering the break.

Freshman attacker Max Berg scored for the first time since the Sept. 8 contest with La Salle to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead, and redshirt freshman attacker Henry Wilde’s fourth-quarter score was only his second of the season.

Berg said the team’s preparation bouncing back from its 14-10 win over No. 3 Pacific on Friday hurt the team’s progress it had made this season.

“We weren’t ready for today,” Berg said. “We needed to be better prepared for our games today. We need to look at what we did leading up to today and bring a better level of energy up when we come back to practice Monday.”

UCLA struggled to score in the third quarter, registering its only goal 6 minutes, 45 seconds into the period via a top-shelf shot from freshman attacker Tommy Gruwell. But their third-quarter struggles weren’t just limited to a lack of scoring – the Bruins also came away empty in two 6-on-5 situations, registered three offensive fouls and committed a turnover.

The Poets scored six goals in the second half, closing the deficit to two goals in both the third and fourth quarter, but the Bruins scored three goals in the fourth quarter to solidify a 10-8 win.

UCLA will be back in action Sunday – playing on the road for the first time in over a month against UC Irvine.

Morgan said the next week is going to be crucial for the Bruins to close out the rest of the regular season strong.

“The next week is going to be huge for us,” Morgan said. “Coming off a three-game weekend going into a good team like Irvine, we’re going to have to use it to recover. But we also have to game plan for Irvine and the next few really strong teams we play going forward.”

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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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