Men’s water polo faces tests from conference foes in upcoming MPSF invitational
Sophomore attacker Makoto Kenney – who won the MPSF Newcomer of the Year award last season – and No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo will get their first taste of conference play at the MPSF Invitational. (Esther Ma/Daily Bruin)
By Kyle Boal
Sept. 23, 2021 1:11 p.m.
The Bruins have been eyeing this weekend since the season’s start, according to coach Adam Wright.
No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (9-0) will compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Invitational, which will be hosted over two days at Spieker Aquatics Complex and Legends Aquatic Center in Berkeley. The Bruins will enter the competition as the No. 2 seed, as voted by the participating team’s coaches before the tournament.
The MPSF Invitational consists of 14 teams, including the top nine teams in the nation, and will also mark the first matchups of the season between top MPSF conference foes.
“It’s the first tournament where you have a good majority of the top teams in the country,” Wright said. “Our goal is to put ourselves in a position to play in the most competitive games possible. We want to try to put ourselves in a position to be in that last game on Sunday.”
With a first round bye, UCLA will face the winner of No. 7 seed Pacific and No. 10 seed Pepperdine early Saturday morning. Reigning MPSF Newcomer of the Year and sophomore attacker Makoto Kenney said he’s excited to match up against a team his squad has yet to face.
“I’m looking forward to seeing every team we haven’t played and what they have to bring to the table,” Kenney said.
No matchup is guaranteed for the Bruins afterwards, but UCLA will likely go head-to-head with No. 3 seed California – the tournament’s host – later Saturday evening if both teams win their second-round matchups. The Golden Bears defeated the Bruins three times last season, averaging 14.7 goals per game in the victories.
This season, however, UCLA has only given up double-digit goals twice, with both occasions coming in wins against No. 5 UC Santa Barbara. Redshirt senior utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim said while offense is important, the Bruins emphasize their defense.
“We can always improve our defense,” Brozyna-Vilim said. “They say offense wins games but defense wins championships, so there’s always room to improve.”
The MPSF Invitational is also expected to mark the return of junior goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi, who has yet to play this season after starting more than 80% of the team’s games during the 2020-2021 season. Sophomore goalkeeper Garret Griggs has raked in 42 saves in his absence, good for fourth in the conference.
With a potential final game Sunday, likely against either No. 1 seed USC or No. 4 seed Stanford, Wright said this weekend will be a good test for his program.
“We’re not a finished product. We’re a long way from where we want to be,” Wright said. “This is a weekend where we’re focused on our little things and the little details, and we’re going to see if we can apply those things against the best teams in the country.”