For a sports newbie and a water polo first-timer, the Men’s Water Polo team’s game on Nov. 3 against Cal State Long Beach was an exciting, if intimidating event. Though I had little idea of what to expect, it was clear from the crowd, as well as the water polo aficionado I was seated next to, that the game was intense.
The bright lights, white tents and flying water polo balls of the Crawford Aquatics Complex were visible from the back of the Science Library, as both teams warmed up for what would prove to be an exciting night. Despite the cool weather, the crowd packed the stands with yellow shirts and pom-poms advertising their support for the Water Polo team’s 10-7 victory over CSULB.
UCI maintained the lead throughout the game, though they faced fierce competition. The Anteaters started the first quarter strong, notching their first goal within minutes of the start. Shortly after, Junior 2M player Tim Hutton slammed a 7-meter goal past the LBSU goalie, senior Thomas Onyshko, to close out the first quarter 2-0.
CSULB fought back with two goals of their own in the second quarter, including a fierce attempt by LBSU senior Eric Geoffroy which raised the pitch of the crowd to an all-time high as he sprinted with the ball down most of the pool, only to be stopped at the goal by UCI’s senior goalie Joe Wynne. By the end of the first half, both Onyshko and Wynne had five saves.
A combination of efforts in the last quarter sealed the win for UCI. Sophomore driver Andrew Dunn scored the final goal for the Anteaters in the last three minutes of the game, narrowly avoiding Onyshko, not to mention the rest of the aggravated 49ers.
Wynne’s outstanding performance in goal ultimately held CSULB at bay, as he blocked three intense slams in the last 30 seconds of the game, including an amazing save off a CSULB penalty shot. The game closed out at 10-7, but it was obvious that the victory had not come without a tough fight.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the night was the chance to talk to the coaches and team, most of whom towered over me by several inches, if not a foot. UCI Head Coach Marc Hunt called the game ‘one of our biggest conference games,’ and was enthusiastic about the team’s performance.
‘I thought that Wynne really stepped up and had some great saves in the fourth quarter,’ Hunt said. ‘Barry was probably more aggressive than I’ve seen him in the past.’
That seems to be the appeal of water polo, its inherent aggression.
The players seemed pleased with their performance as well. Hutton, the big scorer for the night, finished with four goals. ‘As far as LBSU, we’re sort of rivals … we know a lot of their players,’ Hutton said. ‘Long Beach is a tough opponent … [but] we played really well as a team.
Wynne, clutching an ice pack to his midriff, clearly knew that the game had been tough. ‘We played really well and executed our game plan,’ Wynne said. ‘It was great because we only had two days to prepare for this.’
The Anteaters next home game is against the UCLA Bruins on Nov. 10.
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