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Undefeated UCLA men’s water polo prepares to play Pepperdine, Air Force

Senior attacker Rafael Real Vergara winds back his arm as he shoots. (Julia Zhou/Assistant Photo editor)

Men's water polo


No. 4 Pepperdine
Friday, 5 p.m.

Spieker Aquatics Center
No TV info
Air Force
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Spieker Aquatics Center
No TV info

By Ava Abrishamchian

Sept. 29, 2023 12:47 p.m.

The Bruins will face off against familiar foes in their quest to keep their undefeated streak alive.

“We want to put ourselves in a position to be in the highest level games that we can possibly be,” said coach Adam Wright. “The competition is great for us.”

With a win already in its back pocket, No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (13-0, 1-0 MPSF) will face off against No. 4 Pepperdine (12-2) on Friday at Spieker Aquatics Center before facing Air Force (9-8) on Saturday to close the homestand. This will be the second time in 2023 the Bruins compete against the Waves with their first matchup being at the Overnght/MPSF Invitational on Sept. 23.

The Bruins won each period and etched a mark in their win column, ultimately defeating the Waves 15-11 with the help of senior attacker Rafael Real Vergara – who led the game with five goals.

“The team has been helping me a lot,” Real Vergara said. “I feel like I’m ready for the opportunity that teams created for me and it’s great to know that I’m better now… that’s what we’ve been training for the whole season.”

The Long Beach State transfer has been a prolific attacker throughout the NCAA this season and leads the nation with 35 goals. Real Vergara was recently named MPSF West/Delfina Player of the Week, the first of his career and the second-consecutive Bruin to earn the honor.

Being a leading scorer isn’t new for Real Vergara.

The Brazilian was a leader at Long Beach, shepherding the Golden Coast Conference with 73 goals last season. Wright said his transition to Westwood has been successful and Real Vergara is navigating the new program well.

“From a cultural standpoint, from a fundamental standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, from a piece of play standpoint and given moments, but it (has) suited his game, and he’s really finding his way,” Wright said.

The Bruins are coming off a winning weekend with a dethroning win over then-No. 1 California. The victory showcased the Bruins’ newfound camaraderie and self-confidence within the squad, redshirt senior attacker Jack Larsen said.

Larsen added that despite being undefeated on the road – with 11 wins away from Spieker – the Bruins are happy to be returning home for the rematch against the Waves and a fresh opponent with the Falcons.

“We try not to let the environment and external factors influence how we play, but it’s definitely good to turn and see a crowd full of Bruins,” Larsen said. “At the end of the day, it just feeds into the program and it is really just a great impact on all of us so it’s super exciting.”

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Ava Abrishamchian
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