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UCLA men’s water polo falls to California in largest defeat of season

Redshirt freshman attacker Gianpiero Di Martire faces tight coverage from a defender in a win over Pepperdine on Oct. 24. Di Martire was one of three Bruins to tally multiple goals, but No. 3 UCLA men’s water polo suffered its largest defeat of the season to No. 1 California on Saturday. (Alexia Saigh/Daily Bruin)

Men's Water Polo


No. 3 UCLA9
No. 1 California16

By Kyle Boal

Nov. 14, 2021 1:54 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 14 at 11:53 p.m.

The Bruins’ regular-season closer marked their largest loss of the season.

No. 3 UCLA men’s water polo (16-3, 1-2 MPSF) suffered a wire-to-wire 16-9 defeat against No. 1 California (20-2, 3-0) at Spieker Aquatics Complex on Saturday on the Golden Bears’ Senior Day. The Bruins were without coach Adam Wright, who earned a red card in a loss to No. 2 USC the previous week.

“I don’t think (not having Wright) had any effect on how we were going to play,” said freshman attacker Chase Dodd. “We’re all playing as one team, with or without the coach.”

The contest marked the first time UCLA was outscored in every quarter and the most goals allowed in a game this season. The Bears finished shooting over 50%, while the Bruins failed to net a third of their own shot attempts.

Dating back to last season, UCLA has fallen to Cal in five of six meetings, including twice this season. 2020 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Newcomer of the Year and sophomore attacker Makoto Kenney said the Bears’ roster is loaded with offensive talent.

“They’re a really good team,” Kenney said. “They have the center. They got shooters. They got everything. It comes down to we just didn’t execute.”

Despite getting doubled up 4-2 by the end of the first quarter, the Bruins swam back to tie the match at five less than three minutes into the second period. Cal would score five unanswered goals, including netting the first of two penalty shots in the game, to again double up UCLA 10-5 by halftime.

Golden Bear center Nikolaos Papanikolaou, a finalist for the Peter J. Cutino Award as a sophomore last season, scored two goals and added two assists, six drawn exclusions and a steal.

Tied for the Bruin team high with two goals, Dodd said defending Papanikolaou is a tall order.

“Papanikolaou can do a lot of stuff that other centers in college cannot,” Dodd said. “He’s a big-man center that is creating a lot of havoc in college water polo.”

Six different UCLA players scored, but nine Cal players found the back of the net Saturday. Golden Bear attackers Max Casabella and Roberto Valera combined for nine points.

The Bruins struggled in man-up situations for the second straight week, going 1-of-9 on the power play following a 2-of-9 performance at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. On the other hand, the Bears converted half of their six-on-five attempts.

Junior goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi secured six saves, tied for a game high with Cal goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg – who was subbed out in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.

The blue and gold’s back-to-back losses to end the regular season dropped it down to the No. 3 seed and without a bye in the MPSF tournament. UCLA will face the loser of Penn State Behrend and Austin College at 1 p.m. on Friday at Avery Aquatic Center.

Until then, redshirt freshman attacker Gianpiero Di Martire said the Bruins will continue to refine their game.

“We are going to start to work on Monday,” Di Martire said. “We will analyze our game, and we will work on everything. We will try to improve everything.”

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Kyle Boal | Sports senior staff
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women's water polo beat. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women's water polo beat. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
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