The No. 6 ranked UC Irvine men’s water polo team displayed tremendous resilience Thursday versus Cal State Long Beach.
The Anteaters prevailed against the No. 7 ranked 49ers by a 7-6 final on senior Cole Bitter’s power-play goal, but not after Long Beach scored four unanswered goals in the third period.
Long Beach trailed the ‘Eaters 5-2 entering the second half; they wasted no time cutting into that three-goal deficit.
After tying the game 5-5, Long Beach’s Jeff Greenwood tossed in the 49ers’ go-ahead score with twenty seconds remaining in the third period. UCI squandered a three-goal lead and looked nothing like the team that showed up for the first half.
Luckily, senior Colin Mello wasn’t going to let his squad go into Big West Conference play with such a bitter-tasting loss.
With 7:47 left to play, Mello netted the ‘Eaters’ first goal since the second period, tying the game 6-6. It was Mello’s fourth goal of the match.
With 4:49 remaining in the contest, Mello set up Cole Bitter for what would be a game-winning power-play goal. The UCI defense was far less generous to Long Beach in the fourth period; the tie-breaking goal was all the Anteaters would need to seal Thursday’s 7-6 victory over the 49ers.
Senior goalkeeper Matt Garcia played shutout defense in the fourth period; he had six saves in goal on the night.
The victory gives UCI a commanding 5-0 lead over Long Beach in their third annual ‘Black and Blue’ rivalry series between the schools’ sports teams.
On Sunday, the Eaters won their second one-goal game in as many games. UCI edged out No. 8 UC Santa Barbara by a score of 9-8.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Johnson darted in the game-winning go-ahead goal with just 25 seconds left in the game. It was Johnson’s second goal of the contest.
For the second time in a row, the Anteaters found themselves trailing late in the game, and once again they found a way to pull themselves out of it.
With 1:51 left in regulation, the Gauchos received their fourth goal from Zsombor Vincze, giving UCSB an 8-7 lead.
Luckily, UCI senior Tim Hutten countered with a goal of his own to tie the game with 1:24 remaining. The goal was Hutten’s team-leading 37th of the season.
The Gauchos were held scoreless for the rest of the match, and Johnson’s power play goal in the last half-minute of play was all the Eaters needed to seal the victory. On Friday, UCI will seek revenge at home against UCLA and look to improve their Conference record to 2-0.
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