As the sky darkened on Oct. 28, the blue-capped UC Irvine Men’s Water Polo team (12-9. 3-1 MPSF) faced off against UC San Diego. No. 6 UCSD (20-8) took a sound beating from the seventh-ranked Anteaters as UCI nailed a nine-goal victory into the Triton’s watery coffin, winning 13-4.
Both teams engaged each other in highly convoluted defensive patterns and, despite the final result, UCSD by no means played poorly. In a graceful display of polo 3:11 into the first quarter, a snake-charming UC San Diego player finessed his shot into the goal with a short throw over the head of a defending Anteater.
It seemed during the game that UCI carried a certain edge that gave their players impetus to make their shots. Certainly, the game ran more smoothly than some of UCI’s other performances: there were far fewer fouls called against UCI than usual.
‘We executed our game plans,’ said UCI Head Coach Marc Hunt. ‘It went almost to the point where it got a little bit lucky. But at the same time San Diego is one of the top teams out there. They’ve been ranked above us for the entire season.’
The second quarter proceeded much as the first quarter had, with UCI up 5-3 with 2:23 left on the clock. Then, as the anxiety and screaming of coaches reached a crescendo, UCI spent the better part of a minute working around a desperate UCSD defense to find an opening, but to no avail. UCI eventually was able to get a shot off as Junior driver Tim Hutten, overwhelmed by UCSD defenders around him, was able to throw them off and score on an impressive roundhouse throw. Hutten’s goal put the Anteaters up 6-3 at halftime.
‘I think we just came out really intense,’ said senior driver Dreason Barry. ‘We shot the ball well and along with being really lucky. … Our plan of attack was to set up a double-post and that worked really well. Posting up on the two players on the left with our left-hander, they usually don’t drop off that side, so we got to post up there.’
The Tritons seemed to have an answer in the second quarter when they scored two goals to UCI’s three.
‘They had a really good counterattack,’ Barry said. UCI’s hard defensive pressing, as well as senior goalkeeper Joe Wynne’s 11 saves, allowed the Anteaters to maintain a strong lead.
At 2:52 into the third quarter, following a power play and a timely timeout by Hunt, senior driver Nate White slipped in a goal after much ball juggling. Also notable was senior driver Chris Peters’ tuck-in shot three minutes into the second half against a jumbled UCSD defense.
The final quarter of the game proceeded much the same way. Three minutes in, Barry blasted a goal with the shot clock running down and the UCSD defense moving towards UCI’s end in anticipation of the next play. As the game clock wound down, the Anteaters managed to maintain their significant lead by playing hard defense.
‘It worked out well,’ Hunt said. ‘Just to come in and execute our game plan and have a … good day with it.’
UCI’s next home game is Nov. 3 against rival Long Beach State.
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