Friday, April 3

After winning weekend, men’s water polo preps defense for UC Irvine road game

Sophomore attacker Matthew Kacura and the rest of No. 2 UCLA men's water polo will be on the road for the first time since Sept. 21, when the team travels to Irvine to take on No. 14 UC Irvine. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

The Bruins are on the road for the first time since mid-September.

No. 2 UCLA (14-1) will face No. 14 UC Irvine (6-9) on the road in Irvine. This will be the first time the Bruins have played an away game since a win over No. 5 Pepperdine on Sept. 21 – good for a nine-game streak.

UCLA faced UC Irvine last year when the teams were ranked No. 2 and No. 13, respectively, and came out with a 14-7 win. Redshirt freshman attacker Henry Wilde said the Bruins are most focused on fixing their own problems before worrying about opponents.

“Treating every game the same is crucial to do our best every week,” Wilde said. “We’re not playing (UC Irvine) this weekend; we’re playing ourselves. While we game plan for individual teams, it’s important to get better against ourselves every day, every game.”

Since last weekend, when UCLA defeated No. 3 Pacific, unranked Cal Baptist and Whittier, the Bruins have been working on their defense during practice.

“It’s a group effort for us on defense,” Wilde said. “It’s going to come down to how we communicate, making sure one guy isn’t isolated anywhere in the pool.”

Utility Jason Evezard is one of the Irvine players that has been a threat to various defenses this year. Evezard led UC Irvine with 59 goals last season, which was the fourth best in the Golden Coast Conference.

This year, Evezard leads the team with 36 goals through the Anteaters’ 15 games this season – 20 more than Irvine’s second-place scorer.

Sophomore attacker Matthew Kacura said the Bruins are working on defense as a team to stop talented offenses rather than pinpointing their attention on one or two opposing players.

“We never focus on one player individually,” Kacura said. “If we play our game, play our defense the way we’re capable of playing, we’ll be ready for any player and any team we may go up against.”

Coach Adam Wright said the Bruins’ 5-on-6 defense is crucial to their improvement

“If our 5-on-6 doesn’t get better, we’re in trouble,” Wright said. “At the end of the day, you’re going to have to play 5-on-6. Of course you want to limit those opportunities, but it is a massive point in the game, and so far in the year, it’s been pretty poor.”

UCLA allowed 11 5-on-6 goals in three contests last weekend, but against Whittier, UCLA’s offense also had a new low in goals scored on the 6-on-5 attack – scoring only once out of eight opportunities.

UCLA will play UC Irvine on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Anteater Aquatics Complex.

Sports reporter

Britton is currently a Sports reporter on the men's water polo beat. She was previously a contributor on the swim & dive and women's water polo beats.

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