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UCLA men’s water polo freshmen Gray Carson, Noah Rowe make immediate impact

Freshman attacker Noah Rowe gears up for a shot. The Bruin rookie has tallied 12 goals this season, including four in his collegiate debut.(Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

By Ricardo Garcia

Oct. 4, 2022 8:58 p.m.

On a team laden with veteran leadership, two newcomers have made their mark early in their collegiate careers.

Freshman utility Gray Carson and freshman attacker Noah Rowe are two key members of No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo’s 2022 recruiting class who have managed to earn substantial minutes in the rotation in the first half of the season.

With both players vying to help replace the production of a trio that graduated from the program last season – including 2020 Peter J. Cutino Award winner Nicolas Saveljic – members of the current team are impressed by what the two freshmen have brought to the program.

“Those two have definitely stepped up as young players,” said graduate student utility Evan Rosenfeld. “They’re playing like everyone else. They’ve done an incredible job adjusting to our system.”

Carson and Rowe have combined to score 21 goals and dish out nine assists so far in their debut campaigns, all while adjusting to new opponents and styles of play as they transition from high school to collegiate water polo.

Coach Adam Wright added that the early exposure during a challenging portion of the schedule is important for not just the freshmen but also the team as a whole.

“For these guys, not only Noah and Gray, but for the whole team to be in those positions early is really important,” Wright said. “They’re playing big roles within each game.”

Like most college freshmen beginning their athletic careers, there’s been a learning curve for Rowe as he’s learned about the intricacies and play styles of each opponent.

“It’s definitely something very unique in our experience, studying different teams and stuff,” Rowe said. “Our coach, Adam, makes it very easy for us to know what each player does and how to defend and how to attack them so definitely very prepared.”

Carson added that his teammates have aided in his transition to an elite level of water polo.

“It’s hard coming in at the start, but all the guys are super helpful,” Carson said. “They’re all so talented and have so much knowledge. You can ask them for help with anything. It makes the transition super easy.”

Carson also noted that the coaching staff helped with streamlining information about the blue and gold’s opponent in advance, something that was not common in high school.

Senior defender/utility Cameron Reagan said the freshmen’s contributions early in the season demonstrate their commitment to the team.

“The freshmen, what they’ve been contributing so far, they’ve been doing really well,” Reagan said. “They’ve been doing everything Adam has been asking of them, and it really builds the rest of the team’s confidence. We see that though they’re new to our system and ourselves.”

As with most newcomers, there is room to grow over the course of a career. With that comes advice from veteran players such as senior attacker Tommy Gruwell.

“Especially for Gray, I’ve been telling him to use his legs,” Gruwell said. “He’s a super strong guy. That guy’s a freak of nature, so I just tell him to use his legs a lot when he can because he’s just a dominating force in there. I told Noah, ‘just let it rip.’ You have a great shot, just don’t be afraid to shoot it.”

Rosenfeld added that Carson and Rowe remind him of himself when he first began his career at UCLA.

“When I was young, I tried to take in as much information I could from not just the coaches but also from my teammates, the older teammates,” Rosenfeld said. “They’re definitely doing a good job of asking those questions and not just trying to figure it out by watching.”

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