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Undefeated UCLA men’s water polo conquers Cal at home for 1st time since 2019

Senior attacker Rafael Real Vergara raises the ball with his right hand as he prepares to shoot against No. 2 California on Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Center. Real Vergara recorded a hat trick against the Golden Bears. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Water Polo

No. 2 California9
No. 1 UCLA13

By Lamar Tuker

Oct. 29, 2023 12:22 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 29 at 8:14 p.m.

Coach Adam Wright said defense anchored his team’s sweep over the Golden Bears.

“Defense was much better today than last week,” Wright said, referring to UCLA’s matchups against Princeton and UC Santa Barbara.

No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (21-0, 5-0 MPSF) celebrated its third-consecutive win over No. 2 California (17-4, 2-3) at Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday. The undefeated Bruins won 13-9, defeating the Golden Bears at home for the first time since 2019.

“It’s (Cal), a special team,” Wright said. “We know every time we play them, they’re going to get better.”

Rafael Real Vergara scored three goals during the match. The senior attacker – who has put up a minimum of two goals in all 14 games this season – said the team’s hard work is paying off.

“We still have a lot of room to improve,” Real Vergara said. “But playing at home against Cal and being able to win, it’s a great feeling.”

Although Cal held an initial 2-0 lead, redshirt freshman utility Ben Larsen struck the ball straight into the Golden Bears’ den to secure the Bruins’ first point. Two other Bruins, including utilities freshman Ben Liechty and sophomore Gray Carson, followed suit with goals of their own.

“It was good to see Ben (Liechty) get back on track,” Wright said. “Last week was a little bit rough, but today was an excellent job for him.”

Liechty and Real Vergara combined for nearly half of the Bruins’ goals.

Senior goalkeeper Garret Griggs said Real Vergara has been an important asset to UCLA after transferring from Long Beach State.

“He’s an incredible shooter,” Griggs said. “He’s really bought into our team and what we want to do here.”

Griggs managed to save the ball from entering the Bruin net on 13 occasions, ensuring the Golden Bears wouldn’t create an advantage.

Real Vergara reciprocated the kudos from the longtime Bruin keeper, as he said Griggs’ abilities to help the team recover have been vital.

“He’s been saving us,” Real Vergara said. “It’s not the first time he’s got 13 saves and I’m sure it’s not going to be the last.”

Redshirt freshman attacker Frederico Jucá Carsalade landed two assists and one goal for the Bruins. And although redshirt senior attacker Jack Larsen did not notch any goals in the affair, he contributed with two assists.

As the Golden Bears treaded closer and shrunk the deficit to one, Real Vergara, Liechty, Ben Larsen and redshirt senior utility Giorgio Alessandria widened the margin with goals to solidify the game’s final score of 13-9.

Wright said the team will need to stay prepared as the possibility of a rematch against Cal later in the postseason is on the horizon.

“Our goal is, we got to get better,” Wright said. “There’s a chance you see that team (Cal) a couple more times.”

UCLA is set to compete against UC Irvine on Friday in its final home game of the regular season.

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Lamar Tuker
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