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UCLA men’s water polo spears USC to leave Triton Invitational undefeated

Freshman attacker Noah Rowe readies on defense. Rowe notched six cumulative goals, including a hat trick, in his collegiate debut over the weekend. (Kyle Kotanchek/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Water Polo

No. 3 UCLA16
No. 3 UCLA7
No. 8 UC Santa Barbara6
No. 3 UCLA12
No. 7 UC Davis8
No. 3 UCLA8
No. 2 USC6

By Cole Lizar

Sept. 5, 2022 10:24 a.m.

This post was updated Sept. 5 at 7:41 p.m.

With the sun setting on the opening weekend of college water polo, the Bruins emerged unscathed.

No. 3 UCLA men’s water polo (4-0) opened its season Saturday and Sunday with four wins at the Triton Invitational. The blue and gold defeated Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (1-3) to kick off the season Saturday before adding victories over No. 8 UC Santa Barbara (2-2), No. 7 UC Davis (3-1) and No. 2 USC (3-1).

The Bruins started the season with an unanswered four-goal streak in their first quarter against the Stags before ultimately claiming a 13-point victory. The blue and gold was led by freshman attacker Noah Rowe’s efforts – four goals and his first collegiate hat trick.

Coach Adam Wright said Rowe’s performance this weekend made an immediate impact on the team.

“Noah is an extremely smart kid and moves well in the pool,” Wright said. “He shot the ball well this weekend.”

Over the course of the weekend, Rowe found the back of the net two more times for a total of six goals over two days of play. Freshman utility Gray Carson was also able to dent the twine during his time in the pool, adding two goals to UCLA’s weekend total of 43.

Wright said Carson has the potential to make a large impact on the team because of the difficulty of the position he plays.

“Gray fills two roles for us: he defends and plays as a center,” Wright said. “It’s a difficult position to step into. (He’s) set in the middle of the pool, and it’s pretty physical in there. … He did a nice job, and he’s only going to get better, which adds more depth off the bench for us.”

After beating Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the blue and gold continued to rack up wins until the final buzzer rang Sunday afternoon. The Bruins slid past UCSB by a single point in their second game Saturday before taking down both Davis and USC with multiple-point margins of victory.

Wright said the team struggled to separate its emotions from the game Saturday, but presented a more disciplined approach Sunday.

“Prior to our games (on Saturday), we were getting caught up in the emotional part of the game and struggling with staying engaged,” Wright said. “This team had the ability to shift their focus back to themselves, … and the last game of the tournament was the best they handled themselves.”

UCLA’s effort over the course of the weekend was assisted by the play of sophomore attacker Chase Dodd. Despite it being only his second year donning a cap for the blue and gold, Dodd carries both collegiate and international water polo experience after playing for the United States senior national men’s water polo team.

Dodd said his time playing abroad helped him build his confidence in the pool – a lesson he hopes to pass down to the younger players on the team.

“The best advice I can give is to not be afraid,” Dodd said. “(For the freshmen), it’s their first opportunity to play against guys that are four, five or even six years older than them. The age difference can be daunting, but if you have confidence, if you don’t back down, then they can’t push you around.”

The Bruins closed out the first weekend of play with a win in the championship game of the Triton Invitational against the Trojans. The blue and gold opened the match with the first two scores, which were then matched by its rival.

UCLA extended its lead to as much as three points before ultimately winning the title game by two goals.

Rowe said the atmosphere for his first rivalry game against USC was unlike any he had experienced before.

“The environment was completely different than any other game,” Rowe said. “The emotions and support from everyone in the crowd was crazy to see.”

In total, 14 different Bruins dented the twine over the weekend, headlined by Rowe’s six goals.

Dodd said the team draws strength from its balance of talent across the pool.

“Every guy has something to bring to the table this year, and we aren’t relying on one person to do everything,” Dodd said. “Everyone has their own role with their own responsibilities, and we’re going to run with that this season.”

UCLA will return to Spieker Aquatics Center on Friday against No. 5 Long Beach State.

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Cole Lizar | Sports contributor
Lizar is currently a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo beat.
Lizar is currently a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo beat.
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