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UCLA men’s water polo relies on experience, camaraderie for MPSF championship

Freshman attacker Wade Sherlock winds back with his left arm against USC on Saturday. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's water polo

Washington & Jefferson
Friday, 9:30 a.m.

Spieker Aquatics Complex

By Lamar Tuker

Nov. 15, 2023 12:32 p.m.

The Bruins are preparing to face off against a familiar conference tournament foe.

As the top seed in the country and in its conference, No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (23-0, 6-0 MPSF) is headed up north to Berkeley on Friday to compete against No. 8 seed Washington & Jefferson (6-15, 0-6 MPSF) in the first round of the MPSF championships at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The Bruins will also play Saturday and Sunday, with the potential to compete in the MPSF title game if they win their first two games.

Coach Adam Wright said the Bruins would not be underestimating the Presidents.

“The reality is, the standard is the standard, the preparations is the preparation, the routines and the approach,” said coach Adam Wright. “If we’re going sideways on that, then the standard will be held. … This group has been great about that.”

Last season’s first-round matchup against the Presidents resulted in a 25-1 win for the Bruins in which 13 different players scored. Jack Larsen was one of them, notching two goals.

The redshirt senior attacker said the team’s camaraderie has played an essential role in maintaining their level of play.

“I feel like we establish pretty good relationships throughout the season,” Larsen said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time out of the water as well, which definitely adds to that. It’s definitely a newer group, but we’re just going to try and continue to play how we’ve been playing.”

Freshman attacker Wade Sherlock is one of those new Bruins entering his first postseason on the team. The Long Beach local said the veterans have implemented lessons throughout the season to prepare him to keep focus in the later stages of the year.

“Some of the things the older guys taught me is (that) it’s just another game, and it’s the same ball,” Sherlock said. “It’s nothing different, so don’t treat it differently. It’s all the same game.”

Last season, Washington & Jefferson was UCLA’s final win of the season before it fell to both USC and California at the MPSF tournament and the former again in the NCAA semifinals.

A win against the Presidents, much like last year, could place the Bruins in the MPSF tournament semifinals.

Wright said the key to the team’s growth to try and get over the hump in 2023 is to maintain its standard by using past experience as a stepping stone.

“For us, the focus has always been on ourselves, and obviously we have to prepare for a lot of different teams with the conference tournament,” Wright said. “But I think we can use the samples from the past. And we have a choice of what we want to do with those, and you can use those to grow – that’s the greatest thing.”

The Bruins will have the chance to win the MPSF title – and continue their undefeated season – against the Presidents on Friday.

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Lamar Tuker
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