Men’s water polo coasts to victory in quarterfinals, advances to semifinals
Redshirt sophomore center Grant Loth pulls the ball back. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)
Men's water polo
|No. 8 seed Washington & Jefferson||4|
|No. 1 seed UCLA||25|
By Lamar Tuker
Nov. 18, 2023 12:23 p.m.
The Bruins coasted to their second-largest victory of the year and lowered their magic number for the conference title to two.
No. 1 seed UCLA men’s water polo (24-0, 6-0 MPSF) wafted over No. 8 seed Washington & Jefferson (6-16, 0-6 MPSF) in the MPSF championship quarterfinal, defeating the Presidents 25-4 and advancing to the semifinals. Washington & Jefferson managed four points while UCLA kept the offensive onslaught throughout the contest, holding a benchmark of six goals per period.
Coach Adam Wright said although the Presidents are a DIII team, the Bruins maintained their regular performance level.
“For us to have the opportunity today to play Washington & Jefferson, it’s important for the sport, it’s important for our program, it’s important for their program,” Wright said. “We have the obligation to show the standard that we play here at UCLA.”
Redshirt sophomore center Grant Loth individually outmatched the Presidents’ goals, notching a career-high six. The Newport Beach local doubled his previous record of goals in a game, replacing his three goals against Occidental earlier this season.
Loth and the Bruins refused to hand over the ball during the first period, keeping the scoring limelight on six different players. Freshman utility Ben Liechty marked his first-ever tournament with UCLA by contributing a hat trick to the scoreboard.
Loth said that despite his youth, Liechty isn’t a novice.
“I mean, physically, he’s a great player,” Loth said. “He knows what he’s doing, so it’s good.”
It wasn’t until the second period that the Presidents hit the Bruins’ net, raking in three goals.
Liechty said the Bruins’ new attempted game plan backfired, giving credit to their northeast foes.
“We started running a different type of defense which kind of gave them more opportunities and more legs, and I thought we didn’t execute very well,” Liechty said. “But I thought they played well in the second quarter.”
Wright added that UCLA brought out a fierce spirit within Washington & Jefferson.
“It was nice to hear from their coach saying that that was their best game and the most energy they played with,” Wright said. “That’s important for us too.”
The Bruin’s freshmen and sophomores took the reins, responding to each of the Presidents’ goals and then some. Eight different underclassmen scored points for the Bruins during the game, accounting for 19 of the 25 goals.
Redshirt senior utility Giorgio Alessandria said the team maintained their energy throughout the game.
“I was really happy to see that because we’re playing a great team and we always want to make sure our focus is there from the beginning to the end,” Alessandria said. “So as a leader, I was really happy that everybody maintained that.”
UCLA will have a chance at redemption from last season Saturday when it will compete against No. 7 seed USC in the semifinals at Spieker Aquatics Complex.