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UCLA men’s water polo looks to upcoming NCAA semifinals after falling to USC, Cal

Coach Adam Wright points at a referee during a game. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

By Ava Abrishamchian

Dec. 1, 2022 12:11 p.m.

In their first postseason tournament, the Bruins suffered back-to-back losses for the first time all year.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to play out the conference tournament,” coach Adam Wright said. “The reality is if we can do things the right way, then we’re going to put ourselves in a position to have a chance at the end of the game.”

After an 11-12 loss against No. 1 USC in the second round, No. 3 UCLA men’s water polo was set to play in the third-place game of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, ultimately losing to No. 2 California for the second time this year. The defeat at the hands of the former came after UCLA’s three-game winning streak against the Trojans in the regular season.

Over the course of the MPSF tournament, UCLA struggled to find the win column again after a 25-1 victory against Washington & Jefferson.

Despite a fourth-quarter rally against the Trojans, the Bruins were not able to reach the championship game. In its rematch against Cal, UCLA jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter but was outscored in the second and third stanzas en route to another loss.

“We unfortunately came in here carrying some external pressure for some reason, and it really affected how we played this week,” Wright said after the loss to Cal. “It is disappointing because usually, we are usually our best when our best is needed.”

Despite the loss, senior goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi found success in the game against Cal, notching a season-high-tying 15 saves for the third time and limiting the Golden Bears to a season-low seven goals. His first season high of the year occurred in the Bruins’ first matchup against the Golden Bears earlier this season, amounting to 15 saves and one steal.

“I have studied them, and I have been playing against them for a long time,” Maurizi said. “With Cal, you want them to play defense. The more they are in defense, the better it is for us.”

UCLA faced Cal twice this season, falling short by one point in each contest. Although the Bruins forced the Golden Bears into double overtime during their first bout in late October, they struggled to outscore them in the second and fourth quarters and were unable to hold onto a fourth-quarter lead after gaining control in the third quarter.

Coming off of the weekend tournament, the Bruins will have the chance to capitalize on the opportunities presented to them in their upcoming games. With both USC and Cal present in the NCAA tournament, a rematch may present itself.

With a veteran-packed team, including senior attacker Andy Rodgers, who was on the roster during the 2020 championship season, the Bruins have experience under their belt heading into the final stretch of the season.

“We’ve got an older group of guys that have been here since 2019, and two guys for longer,” Rodgers said. “We have a good core that knows what it means to play our style of water polo, and … we feel pretty confident.”

UCLA will face off against the winner of USC and No. 8 Princeton in the NCAA semifinals on Dec. 3.

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Ava Abrishamchian
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