Men’s water polo duo lead conference stats, team enters tournament as No. 2 seed
UCLA men’s water polo goalkeeper sophomore Bernardo Maurizi was selected to All-MPSF Second Team on Wednesday. (Ellie Tsai/Daily Bruin staff)
By Kyle Boal
March 3, 2021 4:09 p.m.
Bernardo Maurizi has compiled conference-topping stats this season for the Bruins.
No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo’s (6-5, 5-5 MPSF) sophomore goalkeeper has the most saves in the conference with 122 and is the only player at his position to rank in the top five in steals.
Playing in all but one quarter this season, Maurizi comes in second in the conference in saves per game with 11.1 – only 0.2 behind first – after only playing in 26 out of 88 quarters a season ago.
“(Maurizi) has been incredible – he put us in a position, even when we haven’t helped him to be successful,” said coach Adam Wright. “The reality is (against California at the Stanford Round Robin) we didn’t help him with our field blocks. So he’s keeping us in the game. He’s saving us all over the place.”
In his first collegiate season, Maurizi split time with now-graduated Team USA goalkeeper Alex Wolf, a three-time All-American who helped lead UCLA to a national championship in 2017.
From Florence, Italy, Maurizi said playing behind Wolf helped him transition to the American game.
“It definitely feels good (being the starter). I’ve been waiting for this moment for one year,” Maurizi said. “Last year was really tough, because I was from another country. I didn’t know what the American system was like. It’s still the same sport, but you have to adjust to it for sure. Getting the chance to travel with the team last year really helped me you know, and having Alex Wolf as the first goalie to just get used to this new world.”
The conference leader in goals, goals per game and steals, senior attacker Nicolas Saveljic said Maurizi has become a leader on the team.
“He really embraced being the starting goalie and, you know, we’re all extremely, extremely proud of him,” Saveljic said. “He’s, to be honest, making some saves that are not really his job. Going forward we want to help (Maurizi) and make his life easier.”
After back-to-back losses saw the team get off to its worst start since 2002, UCLA finished the regular season with back-to-back losses as well. The Bruins were 6-1 between those losses.
UCLA will enter the conference tournament as the 2-seed, sweeping Stanford in the regular season for the first time since 2016 and splitting four games with USC. The Bruins lost three games in overtime to 1-seed California despite holding fourth-quarter leads in all three games, while beating the Golden Bears 10-7 on Jan. 24.
“I believe this group has the biggest room to grow as a team in the country,” Saveljic said. “If we just keep doing what we’ve been doing, trying to fix those mistakes that we make and learn from challenges and losses and experiences like (the team’s third overtime loss to Cal). The MPSF tournament is at home, you know, we got to protect the home territory next.”