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UCLA men’s water polo reflects on need to improve despite winning streak

Junior goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi saved 16 shots, including a pair of saves in the final minute, as No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo came from behind to defeat No. 3 Stanford on Saturday. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)

By Ricardo Garcia

Oct. 12, 2021 5:54 p.m.

Even after the Bruins notched another win over their Bay Area rivals, coach Adam Wright said he is still not satisfied.

No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (14-1, 1-0 MPSF) overcame an early deficit to knock off No. 3 Stanford (13-3, 0-1) by a score of 8-6 on Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Center. The win extended the Bruins’ winning streak to five games, kept them perfect at home and handed the Cardinal their first road loss of the season.

UCLA was whistled for 10 exclusions during the game, but limited Stanford to just two power-play goals on 10 attempts.

“We found a way defensively, but we’re making our lives way more difficult than it needs to be,” Wright said. “At some point that’s going to catch up.”

The Bruins trailed for most of the afternoon, giving up two of the first three goals of the game off turnovers before cutting the deficit to 5-3 at halftime. In their previous battle in Berkeley, the Bruins and the Cardinal traded goals throughout the game before UCLA pulled away late with a 5-1 scoring run from the end of the third quarter to the end of the game.

Redshirt senior utility Evan Rosenfeld said after the contest Saturday, the team needs to come out with a purpose at the start of games to ensure they do not fall behind early.

“We’re not coming out with the right energy at all,” Rosenfeld said. “At the end of the day, this team knows how to fight. That’s the reason you can get away with winning this game.”

Rosenfeld added the team would not have won without junior goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi’s defensive prowess as the team’s netminder.

“He steps up, and we get a win because he plays an insane game,” Rosenfeld said. “His job is to get our back when we’re down.”

UCLA allowed 32 shots, forcing Maurizi to make 16 saves in the afternoon. Since Maurizi’s return from injury at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Invitational, the Bruins have won three of his four starts. In that span, Maurizi has allowed 30 goals while accumulating 48 saves.

After allowing three shots to get past him and into the back of the net in the first quarter, Maurizi allowed three goals the rest of the game Saturday, including shutting out the Cardinal in the fourth quarter.

Named the player of the game, Maurizi said the final result of the contest mattered more than the recognition.

“For me, it’s more important that the score on the board says eight and six,” Maurizi said. “I’m happy we got the win and then (we’ll) focus on the next game now.”

Down goes No. 1

Across town, UCLA’s crosstown rival, No. 1 USC, fell to No. 5 California 7-6 for its first loss of the season, ensuring no team in the country would finish the season undefeated.

Since last season, the Bruins have gone 1-4 against the Golden Bears and 3-3 against the Trojans, although their third triumph over USC secured a national championship. UCLA is set to play Cal a second time and USC for the first time in its final two games of the regular season in November.

Wright, however, said the upset result has no bearing on his team.

“We’ve got too many things to worry about with ourselves,” Wright said. “It’s always going to come back to ourselves and how we execute and are we willing to grow from this game because we can grow so much more.”

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Ricardo Garcia | Sports contributor
Garcia is currently a contributor on the men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was previously a contributor on the track & field beat.
Garcia is currently a contributor on the men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was previously a contributor on the track & field beat.
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