Men’s water polo aims to maintain energy going into final conference games
UCLA men’s water polo freshman utility/center Cameron Reagan has been on a scoring drought since Sept. 21, and said the transition to the physicality of college water polo has been a charge on his scoring. (Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Jason Maikis
Nov. 6, 2019 12:55 a.m.
The Bruins are looking for a way to find consistent energy, according to their coach.
Despite eventually coming back to defeat No. 8 California (11-8, 0-1 MPSF) 10-9 on Saturday, No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (16-1, 1-0) got off to a slow start, scoring only five goals in the first half. The half was a reverse of the trend for UCLA, which had scored its most goals this season in the first and second quarters.
Coach Adam Wright said one of the issues UCLA faced was scoring from the post. The Bruins have had three players play the center position down low on offense this season, and the trio has combined for 47 goals.
“(Post entrances) have got to be some goals if we want to be the best team in the country,” Wright said. “We’re at least finding the openings, but there were times we were rushing it. When you’re not bringing great energy to the game, it’s hard to really attack and approach the goal in the right way – so shooting, you see balls go high or hitting bars.”
Two of UCLA’s primary centers are freshmen, one of which is utility/center Cameron Reagan. Reagan has the fewest goals of the three centers this season, and hasn’t scored since Sept. 21 against Pepperdine.
The freshman cited his recent execution and the team’s game plan for how he has been able to get more goal opportunities, but he admitted the jump to college has been tough to adjust to.
“It’s been a new experience coming from high school,” Reagan said. “Centers are bigger, stronger, faster. So I’ve really had to up how smart I am during the game to limit exclusions and get some scores at 2 meters.”
The Bruins faced a three-goal deficit entering the fourth quarter Saturday, only their second time trailing heading into the fourth this season. After the game, junior attacker Chasen Travisano credited the coaches for harping on the team’s mentality coming out of the third-quarter timeout.
Wright said one positive that came out of being pushed hard against the Golden Bears was the Bruins’ newfound ability to overcome adverse starts to games.
“The biggest thing for us is lesson learned – no matter what we can always find a way back into games,” Wright said. “But the bottom line is, we really don’t want to put (ourselves) in that position over something we can control: our energy.”
The only team to hold the Bruins to a lower-scoring first half – No. 1 Stanford – remains as one of final opponents on UCLA’s schedule, along with No. 7 USC, which is at the end of the week.
Junior utility Levon Gukasyan – a regular in the starting lineup – said the Bruins are putting all of their focus into bringing solid energy to those last two conference games in order to stop from falling behind.
“I think we have to come out with more energy in the beginning,” Gukasyan said. “Rather (than) bringing the energy out in the fourth quarter and falling behind (early in the game). Bringing out the energy early on will help us be successful in the future (against USC).”