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UCLA men’s water polo continues winning streak with victories over UCSB, Davis

Redshirt sophomore attacker Gianpiero Di Martire looks past a defender as he readies for a play. Di Martire tied a season high with four goals against No. 11 UC Santa Barbara on Thursday. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

Men's Water Polo

No. 11 UC Santa Barbara7
No. 1 UCLA12
No. 7 UC Davis9
No. 1 UCLA10

By Cole Lizar

Oct. 23, 2022 6:26 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 23 at 9:30 p.m.

Through their last multigame week of the regular season, the Bruins continue to roll – extending their win streak to six.

No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (19-1, 1-0 MPSF) took down No. 11 UC Santa Barbara (11-11, 1-1 GCC) on Thursday by a score of 12-7, before defeating No. 7 UC Davis (12-7, 5-0 WWPA) with a final score of 10-9 on Saturday in a pair of home contests.

Coach Adam Wright said the team is working with a more robust roster as players recover from injuries and return to the pool.

“We’re starting to get all of our roster back together, and that’s been helpful for our different (lineup) combinations,” Wright said. “Mo (junior attacker Makoto Kenney) Kenney coming back is huge for our attack. (Junior attacker) Hayden Nightingale also got out there. … We put a lot more pressure on teams when we have good structure and when we’re moving the right way, and they were our guys for doing that against Santa Barbara.”

The Bruins have struggled in the first half of games this season, but against the Gauchos they were able to find the back of the net nine times before halftime. Over the same period of time, the blue and gold allowed four goals.

Wright said the team prides itself on defense, adding that senior goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi has been the team’s defensive backbone this season.

“He’s (Maurizi) been huge for us all year,” Wright said. “There have been a lot of games where he’s absolutely saved us and given us the opportunity to be successful. Now, the nice part is that when we start taking our angles and shot blocks in front of him, we become really tough.”

Over both games this week, Maurizi tallied 18 total saves, while allowing 16 shots to slip into the goal. Twelve of his 18 total saves came against UCSB.

Throughout the game against UCSB, UCLA saw six different players dent the twine, led by hat tricks from redshirt sophomore attacker Gianpiero Di Martire and graduate student attacker/utility Jake Cavano.

Wright said the team slipped against Davis, but will look to tighten up its defense in the last three games of the regular season.

“Today was disappointing in our overall approach and energy,” Wright said. “I have to give credit where credit’s due. Davis was really, really good today. It really pushed us, but we gave up nine goals today. It’s just too many. Consistency on the defensive side is going to be big for us down the stretch.”

Against Davis, UCLA managed to score more points in the first half of the game than its opponent again. The Bruins outscored the Aggies in the first stanza and proceeded to play to a draw in the remaining three periods.

Di Martire said despite two wins over ranked opponents this week, the team still has room for improvement on the defensive end.

“We have to work on a lot of things,” Di Martire said. “Today we allowed nine goals, and that’s a lot for our standards. … On Monday, we’re going to watch the video and analyze our mistakes, and then we’re going to be ready to switch the page and be focused on the next game.”

Two Bruins earned MPSF weekly honors last week, with sophomore attacker Chase Dodd receiving MPSF West Player of the Week and freshman attacker Noah Rowe earning MPSF West Newcomer of the Week.

Rowe said his teammates helped him to build his confidence through his first season in the pool with the Bruins.

“I know that we’re all here for each other,” Rowe said. “Even if we’re playing at our worst, we’re gonna pull through. So we just have to come together and trust each other.”

The Bruins return to Spieker Aquatics Center for their second conference game of the season at 1 p.m. on Saturday against California.

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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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