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‘A special connection’: Examining UCLA men’s water polo’s sibling duos

From left to right: Redshirt freshman center Brett Honaker, graduate student goalkeeper Chase Honaker, redshirt senior attacker Jack Larsen, redshirt freshman utility Ben Larsen, freshman utility Ben Liechty and redshirt sophomore center Eli Liechty represent three sets of brothers on UCLA men’s water polo. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)

By Ava Abrishamchian

Nov. 13, 2023 11:32 a.m.

This post was updated Nov. 14 at 10:47 p.m.

Daily Bruin reporter Ava Abrishamchian spoke with UCLA men’s water polo’s three sets of brothers about the transition from siblings to teammates in Westwood.

The Larsens

When redshirt senior attacker Jack Larsen draped his arm around redshirt freshman utility Ben Larsen, a stranger could assume they were lifelong friends.

However, when the Larsens began to wrestle poolside, any stranger would know they were brothers.

“Growing up, I’d always, I say, follow what Jack did,” Ben joked. “Baseball, basketball, and he did start trying water polo first, and I ended up getting into it and then fell in love with it.”

Jack Larsen places his brother, Ben Larsen in a headlock. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)
Jack Larsen (left) places his brother, Ben Larsen (right), in a headlock. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)

Beginning his journey in the pool as a swimmer, the older Larsen joined the world of water polo after a friend’s dad started a club team.

Jack’s success at Campolindo High School would lead him to the Junior Olympics and then to the collegiate level when he came to Westwood in 2019.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Jack began his career as an active offensive player, earning All-MPSF honors in 2022. That same year, his younger brother arrived on campus.

When Ben was deciding how to further his water polo pursuits, the opportunity to play with his brother was a decisive factor.

“I really never played with him before, and I really wanted to play with him,” Ben said. “Hearing about his experiences here, it seemed like the right fit for me, so everything fell into place.”

As teammates, they’re admittedly competitive with one another, pushing each other to improve. However, as brothers, the balance can be harder to find.

“I get frustrated with him a lot,” Jack said. “That’s kind of how our relationship can be, but I honestly want to set the standard for him every day and make sure I’m being a good role model.”

As a veteran of the team, Jack has been a crucial part of the Bruins’ undefeated record this year. On Sept. 16, he scored eight goals against Pacific, one shy of the MPSF single-game record.

For Ben, the season has offered opportunities to grow as a player on his own. This came to fruition when he was named the MPSF West/S&R Sport Newcomer of the Week on Oct. 23, his first collegiate award.

With his younger brother still at the beginning of his career, Jack has begun to see Ben as a role model of his own.

“He is really, really good at not letting things affect him, like getting hit, punched, whatever,” Jack said. “I always get pretty frustrated, and when he first got here, even as a freshman, there was a senior who was trying to get in his head. But nothing affected him.”

Despite the learning curve of brotherhood meshing with athletic ambitions, the Larsens’ relationship has remained a pinnacle of their college experience so far.

“I’m beyond grateful to be in the water with him at the same time,” Jack said, smiling. “So unreal.”

Brett Honaker (left) smiles while Chase Honaker (right) speaks. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)
Brett Honaker (left) smiles while Chase Honaker (right) speaks. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)

The Honakers

Even with limited play time in the pool, graduate student goalkeeper Chase Honaker has created a ripple effect for the team.

“This is the A-plus kid for every program,” said coach Adam Wright. “He brings up the overall level of training, but the overall level of training for our goalies. He is a program changer, and his efforts are paying off.”

During his high school career, Honaker began sending tapes to and taking calls from Wright.

After redshirting his first season with the Bruins, Honaker appeared in seven games across the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. Since then, he’s appeared behind fifth-year Bernardo Maurizi and senior Garret Griggs as the third-string keeper. But as a veteran on the squad, Honaker provides more than just protection for the goal, acting as a role model for the team and for his younger brother, redshirt freshman center Brett Honaker.

The Honakers began their water polo pursuits together in their hometown of Plano, Texas, playing for the same club and high school programs.

“It’s a special connection,” Chase said while looking at his little brother.

“You can kind of tell what’s going through his head sometimes, even outside water polo,” Brett responded.

With Chase guarding the net and Brett in the field, the two haven’t played against each other except in practice.

However, Chase knows the caveats of playing with a younger sibling.

“It stings a little more to get scored on by him,” Chase said.

For Chase, as with the Larsens, his role model is someone he shares a last name with.

“He’s (Brett) had injuries to go through, so he’s had a tough, tough run, especially here at UCLA,” Chase said. “I think he’s done a really good job at keeping it together and still pushing himself, so I’m proud of him for that.”

Injuries have plagued Brett’s season, with him opting to redshirt for his freshman year.

But on the flip side, he said playing alongside his brother has been a dream come true in his training.

“Obviously, it is a special connection,” Brett said. “For water polo, it’s helpful.”

(Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)
Eli Liechty (left) and Ben Liechty (right) hold water polo balls out in front of them. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)

The Liechtys

Water polo is a family affair for the Liechty brothers.

Newport Beach locals freshman utility Ben Liechty and redshirt sophomore center Eli Liechty are just two years apart in age, but they have been in the pool together since the beginning.

“We’ve been doing it our whole lives,” Eli said. “I know what he’s going to do before he does it.”

From club to high school, the pair have grown their skills together. It was well into high school when the duo split to pursue other avenues of playing. For Ben, that included representing his country on the Junior National Team.

And following his experience there, the younger Liechty made his way to UCLA, the same team his older brother had joined two years prior.

“I think UCLA was always a dream school for me, so I always wanted to go here from a young age,” Ben said. “But I think once (Eli) got here and he told me about the culture and how they play, I fell in love with it from there.”

Wanting to cement a career of his own, Eli initially had doubts about having his younger brother join the squad.

“I honestly thought it was going to be a lot worse when I got here,” Eli said. “I thought it was going to be a lot of butting heads because while we were growing up it was super competitive, but it honestly hasn’t been like that. It’s been very cohesive, in a way.”

“We butted heads because we were on the same high school team, so now it’s really together as a team,” Ben responded.

For the Liechtys, their personal connection extends beyond their shared last name.

But with a team that trains extensively together for hours on end, the brotherly relationship is also found within the 30-man squad the Liechtys share.

“I almost feel like there are a lot of guys in the team where I’d say … I have a similar relationship with (my brothers) as I do with them,” Eli said.

As each brother navigates his way through Westwood, all have reflected upon the experience of sharing the pool with one another.

Whether it be an older brother supporting his younger brother in the transition to college or a younger brother pushing the older brother to play at an elite level, the backbone of familial support has been a hallmark of their college careers so far.

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