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UCLA men’s water polo takes down UC San Diego while improving on 1st-quarter play

Graduate student attacker/utility Jake Cavano readies himself for a throw. The veteran picked up a hat trick against No. 14 UC San Diego on Saturday. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

Men's Water Polo

No. 14 UC San Diego6
No. 3 UCLA17

By Cole Lizar

Oct. 9, 2022 12:11 p.m.

For the second time over the last seven games, the Bruins outscored their opponent in the first stanza.

After gaining an early 4-0 lead, No. 3 UCLA men’s water polo (16-1) defeated No. 14 UC San Diego (9-10) by a final score of 17-6 at Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday afternoon.

Graduate student attacker/utility Jake Cavano said the team’s aggressive defense in the first quarter helped to build momentum.

“We started out the game with a strong press (defense),” Cavano said. “Setting that precedent helped us keep them further away from our goal and close out possessions with good communication, … really making sure that we finished our defense before we moved to offense.”

UCLA’s defensive tactic prevented UCSD from scoring for almost the first five minutes of the game. Over the course of the contest, the Tritons were held to fewer than half the points scored by the Bruins.

In 10 of 17 games this season, the blue and gold has failed to outscore its opponents in the first period. In all 10 of those games, UCLA ultimately managed to score more points by the time the final buzzer rang.

Sophomore attacker Chase Dodd said the team took time to self-reflect and realized that their play in the first quarter of games was one of their biggest weaknesses.

“It was time for us to wake up,” Dodd said. “We had to recognize that the start of the game was probably the worst part of our game. … We realized that when you have a better start, … it’ll only help in the long run.”

Against the Tritons, the Bruins never trailed after scoring the first four goals of the game. UCLA scored six goals in the first quarter alone, while UCSD tallied six total goals after four quarters of play.

Senior attacker Andy Rodgers said the quality of practice in the week leading up to the game sets the tone for the team’s play come game day.

“It all comes back to what we do in the training leading up to the game,” Rodgers said. “Over the last three or four days, we really started buying in more to what our coaches have been telling us all season. It worked out for us today and put us in a much better position than we’ve been in over the past few weeks.”

Moving forward, the Bruins will begin training for a rematch against the lone team they’ve lost to this season – the Cardinal. In a low-scoring battle between two water polo blue bloods, Stanford managed to score the only point in the fourth quarter to break the 7-7 tie that carried over from the end of the third quarter.

Cavano said the most important factor in the Stanford game will be the transitional offense and defense for both teams.

“The biggest thing is going to be … having a good strong transition,” Cavano said. “That will help lead to our offensive success. When we have a good offense, we help take away their (ability to) counter attack, … which is one of their strong points. … It’ll be a good test next weekend.”

Cavano and Rodgers led the Bruins against UCSD, each earning a hat trick after scoring a game-high three points. Rodgers said his teammates help to motivate each other to play at their best.

“Any guy during any game can have three or four goals,” Rodgers said. “The way that our team works for one another, knowing that we have such a deep team, definitely helps motivate me.”

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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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