Despite the weekend rain, the heat was on.
For the UC Irvine Men’s Water Polo team, Nov. 15 was the last home game of the season against Stanford in the Anteater Aquatics Complex.
When the water had settled, the score was in Stanford’s favor, 12-6, despite the promise the Anteaters showed in their last game, a win against UC San Diego on Nov. 14. In fact, the win over UCSD may have contributed to the weakness of Saturday’s game performance.
Sophomore two-meter man Chris Peters suggested, ‘We played pretty hard yesterday. Yesterday was a big win. [We] might have been a little tired mentally.’
A tone of dissatisfaction was to be found on both sides of the pool at the end of the game. Clearly Stanford beat ahead of Irvine with their defensive, but Cardinal Head Coach John Vargas was still unsatisfied with his defense’s performance.
‘They scored six goals so maybe it wasn’t that good,’ Vargas said.
‘We’re young and we can’t deal with the press,’ UCI Head Coach Ted Newland mused at the game’s finish. ‘People press you and you don’t see anything.’ His explanation for his players’ performance: ‘They gotta grow up.’
Indeed the key word to describe the team’s flaw on Saturday seemed to be ‘inexperience.’ In fact, more than half of the Anteaters are freshmen and sophomores.
‘We’re a young team … we’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced guys,’ said junior two-meter man Dan Noon. ‘It’s a good learning experience. Now that they got all their butterflies out playing this game this year, next year we’re going to pull together and play good.’
The game got off to a good start with senior driver Phil Garcia scoring the first goal of the game, but the UCI lead was lost when Stanford’s tight defense got a strong hold on the Anteaters. The game was close in both the first and second periods with the score 4-2 in Stanford’s favor at the end of the second period.
In the third period of the game, Stanford took their aggressiveness up a notch and scored six goals, making Irvine’s chances of a comeback more and more unlikely.
Star players of the match were most notably senior driver Phil Garcia, sophomore driver Nate White and Noon, with sophomore goalie Joe Wynne working hard and warding off eight goal-attempts by Stanford.
UCI’s athletes met their match against Stanford sophomore driver Peter Varellas, junior driver Tony Azevedo and sophomore driver Thomas Hopkins who scored a whopping three goals, nearly toppling the three scored by Irvine’s Noon.
Saturday’s game against Stanford marked Garcia’s last home game at UCI. At the game’s end, he was noticeably exhausted and had little to say about the game’s result, a faraway look in his eye that was mirrored in the eyes of many of his fellow teammates.
Quick to spring from the pool after the game, the players dried off and headed to the locker rooms through the rain without much discussion. The post-game conference with Newland was brief and the dispirited feelings within the team were palpable from the stands. Even though the Anteaters lost, it was a game that was marked by passionate efforts on both sides.
‘I thought UCI played well. They played tough all the way through. [They] played great defense and fought till the end,’ Vargas said. In the end it was junior Dan Noon’s optimism that put the events of the day into the right perspective.
‘Next year’s another year, right?’ Noon said.
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