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Men’s water polo defeats California Baptist, advances to tournament semifinals

Junior attacker Jake Cavano had a career-high-tying performance scoring five goals without missing for UCLA men’s water polo in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. (Ellie Tsai/Daily Bruin staff)

men's water polo


No. 4 seed UCLA19
No. 5 seed California Baptist14

By Kyle Boal

March 19, 2021 4:10 p.m.

The Bruins are on to the semifinals.

No. 4 seed UCLA men’s water polo (7-7, 5-5 MPSF) defeated No. 5 seed and Western Water Polo Association conference champion California Baptist University (7-5, 1-1 WWPA) on Thursday 19-14 to continue its season.

Scoring a season-high goal total, eight different Bruins found the back of the net in the 19-goal effort. UCLA went 19-of-37 from the pool, 4-of-8 during six-on-five situations and converted on its only penalty shot attempt.

The Lancers shot 14-of-25 good for 56% while going 4-of-5 during powerplays and netted all three penalty shot opportunities.

“Anytime you let a team score 14 goals, we’re lucky we got out of that game today on the right side,” said coach Adam Wright. “Obviously, we have one more day of training. Our guys, they know what we’re looking for, and that this time of the year it’s either you do it or you don’t. And today we did not. We’ve got to be a whole lot better defensively, otherwise it’s gonna be a long Saturday.”

The conference leader in saves, sophomore goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi started the first half of the game after playing in over 45 quarters during the regular season. Maurizi held the Lancers to just four goals and registered five saves as the Bruins entered halftime up 9-4.

To start the second half, however, redshirt freshman goalkeeper Chase Honaker subbed in, surrendering 10 goals and failing to record a save.

13 UCLA players netted or assisted on a goal, junior attacker Jake Cavano led the way tying his career high of five goals on perfect shooting while adding an assist. Senior attacker Nicolas Saveljic and sophomore center Gabe Discipulo each had hat tricks.

“When you’re doing things the right way, it feels really good,” Cavano said. “All of the goals that I had today were situations where it was my shot a couple times they jumped out so I made the extra pass, and that’s kind of what we’re trying to do the whole time. But obviously we kind of went away from that. So definitely not focused on the goals that I had, we got to clean up the defense.”

While the game was Cal Baptist’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament, the loss moved the Lancers to 0-11 all-time against the Bruins. In contrast, UCLA missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in six years.

Discipulo noted how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the season.

“This has definitely been different than years in the past,” Discipulo said. “But our team has done a really good job of following these protocols and making certain commitments that put us in a position to be here and be safe.”

UCLA will advance to play Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion and No. 1 seed Stanford after its win. The Bruins defeated the Cardinal in two of three matchups this season.

Wright has won three national championships at the helm of UCLA, all of which the Bruins had a first-round bye for – which the team did not have this year. Nonetheless, the three-time Olympian said this game was a good experience for his team that has only played 14 games to this point in the season.

“I think it was really important for us to play this game, to be honest,” Wright said. “It was really great the way CBU played, that was great for us. It made it really clear that if we play the way we played today, things will be completely different on Saturday.”

The first sprint against Stanford will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

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Kyle Boal | Assistant Sports editor
Boal is currently the assistant Sports editor and a reporter on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He is also a second-year student studying statistics.
Boal is currently the assistant Sports editor and a reporter on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He is also a second-year student studying statistics.
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