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Men’s water polo continues winning streak after victory against UC Irvine

UCLA men’s water polo sophomore attacker Ashworth Molthen scored a career-high four goals against UC Irvine on Sunday, and also tied for the team lead with three assists in the 16-7 Bruin win. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

Men's water polo

No. 2 UCLA16
No. 14 UC Irvine7

By Will Foote

Oct. 28, 2019 12:03 a.m.

The Bruins ended nonconference play with a win.

No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (15-1) defeated No. 14 UC Irvine (6-10) by a score of 16-7 on Sunday at Anteater Aquatics Complex in Irvine. The nine-point win was tied for the Bruins’ largest margin of victory against a ranked opponent this year with UCLA’s 14-5 win over then-No. 12 Princeton on Sept. 7.

“Overall we had a good performance,” said coach Adam Wright. “Our 6-on-5 today was pretty good, and also our 5-on-6 defense was better. There were a lot of opportunities for us as the staff to watch different combinations (of players) out there.”

Although UC Irvine took eight more shots, UCLA won the efficiency battle. The Bruins’ 16-25 shooting was good for a .640 shooting percentage, more than tripling the the Anteaters’ .212 mark.

Entering Sunday’s match, the Bruins had outscored their opponents 114-58 in the first two quarters of play. UCLA continued this trend and was winning 12-3 by halftime, led by first-half hat trick from junior utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim and two goals of sophomore attacker Jake Cavano’s eventual hat trick.

“Some of our worse games we’ve started slow,” said sophomore attacker Ashworth Molthen. “It’s a lot about our energy, today we came out with good energy from the very beginning and it showed (in the score).”

Molthen accounted for another of the three Bruin hat tricks and led the team in scoring with a career-high four goals to go along with three assists, tying for best on the team with freshman attacker Tommy Gruwell.

Wright said Molthen is important for the Bruins because of the way he dictates the offense and uses his game IQ to make productive plays.

“(Molthen is) one of the smartest players in the country in the way he sees the game,” Wright said. “He not only scores goals, but he’s also positioning our team, the way he finds the centers and posts on 6-on-5s. He’s really smart in the way he positions himself in all phases of our attack.”

On top of the offense putting UCLA up early, redshirt senior goalkeeper Alex Wolf held UC Irvine scoreless until the last two seconds of the first quarter, beginning the match with four straight saves. Wolf finished the match with a .682 save percentage and 15 total saves, his second-highest total of the season.

“(Wolf is) the best goalie in the country for a reason,” Gruwell said. “He makes incredible saves and he showed that today with (15) saves. It was really impressive to see.”

Gruwell said the Bruins holding UC Irvine scoreless on the Anteaters’ three power-play opportunities was a good sign for the defense.

“We definitely took a step in the right direction on defense,” Gruwell said. “We can still improve in the distance we cover with each other, but we definitely got some blocked shots when we were in 5-on-6.”

UCLA will play its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference match of the season against No. 8 California on Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Center.

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Will Foote | Sports contributor
Foote is currently a Sports contributor. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, women's soccer, men's volleyball and men's water polo beats.
Foote is currently a Sports contributor. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, women's soccer, men's volleyball and men's water polo beats.
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