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Undefeated men’s water polo to battle Princeton, UCSB

Senior attacker Rafael Real Vergara holds the ball up in the air with his right hand against USC at Spieker Aquatics Center. Real Vergara ranks second in the NCAA in goals. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's water polo

No. 6 Princeton
Wednesday, 6 p.m.

Spieker Aquatics Center
No. 10 UC Santa Barbara
Friday, 11 a.m.

Spieker Aquatics Center
No TV info

By Lamar Tuker

Oct. 17, 2023 1:15 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 17 at 9:47 p.m.

The Bruins plan to stick to their defensive strategy as they reach the middle portion of a five-game homestand.

“Our approach is going to be the same like every day,” said senior attacker Rafael Real Vergara. “We’re going to approach with strong defense and give everything we got.”

No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (18-0, 4-0 MPSF) is set to compete against No. 6 Princeton (17-2, 5-0 NWPC) on Wednesday at Spieker Aquatics Center before hosting No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (14-9, 1-1 Big West) on Friday. UCLA is yet to be defeated this season, while Princeton has lost against Stanford and Pepperdine – two teams the Bruins have beaten twice.

Princeton head coach Dustin Litvak was an assistant coach with UCLA men’s water polo from 2013 to 2015 and UCLA women’s water polo from 2015 to 2017. Coach Adam Wright said his former assistant’s experience poses alarm from the East Coast.

“We’ve got to quickly turn it around before Wednesday because that’s a really good team and a dangerous team,” Wright said.

Princeton’s largest win margin against a shared opponent was a 13-2 defeat of Air Force, unlike UCLA who won with a tighter margin of 14-8.

Although Princeton is not a familiar opponent for newer Bruins, freshman center Marcell Szécsi said they follow the mindset of their older teammates.

“I don’t know how strong Princeton is,” Szécsi said. “We’re going into that game like every other game.”

The Hungarian recruit – who was a member of his nation’s U18 and U20 World Championship-winning teams – helped lead the attack against USC last weekend as one of three multi-goal scorers in UCLA’s historic 11-2 victory over its crosstown rivals.

Real Vergara, who scored three goals of his own in that game, scored 192 goals at Long Beach State – fourth in program history – before coming to Westwood.

Wright said the team’s triumph against USC was celebratory, but it’s important to focus on what’s ahead.

“I think they should be proud that their efforts are paying off, but we got to keep going,” Wright said.

UCLA will host a rematch against UCSB – its first opponent of the season – on Friday. During the teams’ first game, Real Vergara was the top scorer with a hat trick and scored the game’s winning goal. Six other Bruins scored in the contest, and senior goalkeeper Garret Griggs had eight saves.

After the upcoming pair of games this week – including the atypical midweek affair – UCLA will only have three more regular-season contests before the MPSF tournament kicks off.

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Lamar Tuker
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