The Bruins will play their final regular season game this Saturday.
No. 3 UCLA men’s water polo (16-2, 1-1 MPSF) will face No. 1 Stanford (16-2, 1-1 MPSF) this weekend on the road. Both teams recently lost to No. 1 USC in games that ended with 10 or fewer goals from each team.
With UCLA averaging just 8.5 goals per game in its two most recent matches against No. 7 California and USC, coach Adam Wright says that the team needs to work on its offensive game.
“Both of those teams completely outplayed us from the intensity standpoint,” Wright said. “The biggest concerns from last weekend was that we never established a front court. We were shooting balls from 12 meters and it became a lot easier for the goalie to see where it was coming from.”
Within 19 seconds of the Bruins’ first goal, the Trojans had already answered – making the score 3-1. This trend of USC’s quick answers to UCLA’s goals was consistent throughout the game.
Wright also said the lack of success against USC came from giving up easy goals and being unable to keep the intensity consistent.
“After we would go and score and try and get the game a little bit closer, we would give up a goal within 10 or 20 seconds,” Wright said. “You can’t give up those type of goals and be successful in a game like that.”
Three of the Bruins’ seven goals against USC were scored by junior attacker Nicolas Saveljic, who scored zero goals the week before in UCLA’s conference-opener against California.
Saveljic said that this past week, the Bruins have been analyzing what went wrong the last two games.
“We got a lot of information on what we could improve on in the last regular season game,” Saveljic said. “We hope (the game against Stanford is) going to be better, and I think it for sure will be.”
This will be the second time the Bruins have faced the Cardinal this season, with a 13-9 loss coming Sept. 29 in the finals of the SoCal Invitational.
Cardinal driver Tyler Abramson led the team with four goals and driver Bennett Williams was close behind with three goals of his own. The Bruins trailed the Cardinal for the entirety of the game, facing a gap of 7-3 at the half.
Multiple Bruins pointed to the man-up and man-down situations as where they could improve against these top teams.
Junior attacker Chasen Travisano said this week has been about UCLA working on its defensive tactics for 5-on-6 situations.
“The 5-man game wins championships,” Travisano said. “It’s one of the most important aspects of the game, and we have to be attentive when that’s happening.”
In the last two games, UCLA has completed goals 44% of the time when playing with a man up. In its last matchup against Stanford, the team had a completion rate of about 29%.
Saturday’s game will be the last regular-season game for the Bruins before they head to the MPSF championships, during which they will return to Northern California to play in Berkeley.
UCLA will face Stanford on Saturday at noon at the Avery Aquatic Center.