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Weekend in Preview: Men’s water polo faces Cal, cross country heads to last Pac-12 Championship

Coach Adam Wright crouches while speaking to No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo during a timeout at Spieker Aquatics Center. The Bruins are undefeated entering Saturday’s game. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Ava Abrishamchian and Cecilia Schmitz

Oct. 26, 2023 7:41 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 27 at 12:18 a.m.

Men’s water polo
Ava Abrishamchian, Daily Bruin reporter

Spieker Aquatics Center will be witness to an ever-brewing rivalry Saturday afternoon.

No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (20-0, 4-0 MPSF) will face off against No. 2 California (17-3, 2-2) with the hopes of remaining undefeated and completing a three-game regular season sweep over the Golden Bears.

Despite a familiar foe, the team is ready for anything unexpected that might come their way, coach Adam Wright said.

“The reality is that Cal has been the standard,” Wright said. “They are such a dangerous … team, so the last few times, it gives us information that they’re getting better.”

The Bruins dethroned the Golden Bears for the top NCAA ranking Sept. 24 after an upset win at the Overnght MPSF Invitational. Six different Bruins scored in the program’s late September contest, including redshirt senior attacker Jack Larsen and senior attacker Rafael Real Vergara, who both completed hat tricks.

UCLA etched another win over Cal weeks later. Despite notching 14 goals, the squad let up 11, the only time the Bruins have let up over 10 goals in the past nine games.

The defense is at the front and center of the game plan this time around against the Golden Bears, Larsen said.

“Cal and Stanford are definitely going to capitalize more on some of the opportunities that these other teams are having,” Larsen said. “We just got to buckle down, sharpen up the defensive end and just get ready for this week.”

With three games left until the MPSF conference tournament, the Bruins are nearing the end of their season.

Real Vergara said his team is staying focused on the game ahead in order to maintain consistency.

“We know that Cal, they are going to come here with everything they got,” Real Vergara said. “Because as the season is ending … (it) doesn’t matter what you have done. Everything that matters is playoffs. So having Cal now, at the end of the season, is just going to give us the fuel we need.”

(Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)
Members of the UCLA women’s cross country team gather in a huddle. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

Cross country
Cecilia Schmitz, assistant Sports editor

The Bruins have their last chance to go out with a bang in the Pac-12.

UCLA cross country will compete in the Pac-12 Championships on Friday, hosted by Washington. The men’s cross country team has not won the title since 1981, while the women’s team has yet to win a Pac-12 championship.

Junior Mia Kane, the women’s top scorer in the previous three meets, said the strong showing from the previous meet would help propel the team forward.

“The momentum we had after coming off this meet is unlike anything that I have felt racing at this school yet,” Kane said. “I think that we’re all in a really good place with our fitness and the way that we are able to work together within a race.”

The women’s team continued its trajectory after another strong showing at the Bruins’ most recent competition, the Texas A&M Arturo Barrios Invitational, which resulted in a second-place finish.

Among UCLA’s competition this weekend are ranked opponents No. 9 Colorado men’s team, the No. 5 Stanford women’s team and the No. 9 Oregon State women’s team.

This weekend marks the Bruins’ last participation in a Pac-12 championship before entering the Big Ten. Kane emphasized the team’s energy ahead of its last competition in the conference.

“We’re really, really excited and fired up for Pac-12s,” Kane said. “I think that it’s going to be a really, really great meet for us.”

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Ava Abrishamchian
Cecilia Schmitz | Assistant Sports editor
Schmitz is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women’s soccer, beach volleyball, women’s golf and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women’s soccer and beach volleyball beats and a staffer for the Outreach section. She is also a third-year political science and communication student.
Schmitz is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women’s soccer, beach volleyball, women’s golf and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women’s soccer and beach volleyball beats and a staffer for the Outreach section. She is also a third-year political science and communication student.
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