Despite an overall lackluster performance, the fifth-ranked UC Irvine Men’s Water Polo team managed to prevail over 19th-ranked Cal Baptist on Nov. 17 at the Anteater Aquatics Complex.
With the aid of a game-high, five-goal performance by junior driver Dreason Barry, the Anteaters won the game 12-8.
The score, however, should have been farther apart and the play more dominant, according to various players as well as UCI Head Coach Ted Newland.
Wednesday night’s game marked the final home game for UCI seniors Cameron Bassett, Rick Merlo and Dan Noon.
The Lancers opened the game with a goal by senior utility man Goran Milic in the second minute of the first quarter. The teams managed to trade goals, despite more than a few missed offensive opportunities on both sides of the pool, and ended the quarter with the Anteaters leading 3-2.
Barry scored two of Irvine’s goals in the quarter with sophomore Colin Mello adding the third at the tail end of regulation, while senior driver Darren Netzley netted the Lancer’s their second goal.
With 5:14 remaining in the second quarter, Merlo skipped a shot into the upper-left corner of the goal, sparking a three-goal, two- and-a-half-minute UCI rally. The Lancers scored two quick goals in the fourth minute of the quarter before the Anteaters regained control, finishing the quarter with two more goals, one by Barry, the other by Merlo.
That the Lancers managed to disrupt the Anteaters’ scoring runs was a result of UCI’s laziness and failure to adequately communicate, according to sophomore driver Tim Hutton.
‘We could have performed better together with more focus and communication,’ Hutton said.
Hutton got the Anteaters off to a good start in the third quarter, scoring at just over the one-minute mark.
Barry extended the Anteaters’ run to four goals by stealing back the ball after being stripped in two-meters and putting it in the back of the cage.
Milic ended UCI’s run, scoring the last goal of the quarter with just over a minute and a half remaining.
Merlo drew an exclusion for UCI with 25 seconds remaining in the quarter but numerous poorly aimed passes resulted in a botched opportunity. Barry chalked up the mistake-ridden performance to an inability to mesh together and play as a team.
‘We could have won by more. We didn’t play off each other well and there was a lot of confusion,’ Barry said.
The fourth quarter continued the dulling trend of the night’s game with only four goals scored in the seven-minute period, three within one minute.
Noon scored a goal on a man-up opportunity for the first goal in the fourth quarter. Milic then drew a four-meter opportunity against Barry, providing the Lancers with their seventh goal of the game.
Merlo followed Milic’s score with one of his own and it was another four minutes until Milic scored again, the last goal of the game with four seconds remaining.
Newland described the Anteaters’ performance as ‘very bad,’ also noting the lack of communication between the players. Another point Newland stressed was the team’s tendency for making little mistakes. ‘It was the constant little mistakes that cost us,’ Newland said.
After UCI’s loss to ninth-ranked UCSB, 8-7 on Nov. 20, the team will begin preparing for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation which is set to begin this Friday. UCI will face Long Beach State in the opener of the tourney at Stanford.