Redemption was on the minds of the UC Irvine men’s water polo team on Friday night at Anteater Pool. However, it had to settle for a devastating 12-5 loss against UC Los Angeles.
UCI was looking forward to paying back the Bruins for the 11-12 sudden-victory overtime loss on Sept. 22 at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. UCI came into the match ranked sixth in the nation, while UCLA was fourth.
The UCI faithful were out in full force as a crowd of 300 was ready to cheer the Anteaters to victory. The UCI student section chanted, ‘UCI! UCI!’ at the start of the match to get the whole complex buzzing. Everyone in the stands knew that this match was big for the Anteaters.
After UCLA opened with a goal at the 7:11 mark in the first period, UCI came back and scored three consecutive goals to go up 3-1 after one period.
UCI started its scoring with a goal by senior Colin Mello at the 5:42 mark, who rocketed a shot past UCLA goalkeeper Chay Lapin. Redshirt freshman Brandon Johnson put a shot past Lapin for the second goal after a key ejection of Bruin Ben Hohl with 55 seconds to go in the first period. Mello finished off the first period with a goal with only seven seconds remaining. It was his third of the game.
The first period was an intense physical contest, with both teams pushing themselves to beat the other. UCI capitalized on its tough defense and scored off UCLA’s mistakes. Irvine definitely had the momentum at the end of the first period. The same could not be said for the second.
The second period was a completely different story as UCLA scored six unanswered goals. This was highlighted with goals by Bruins Justin Johnson, Matthew Jacobs and Scott Davidson. The onslaught proved to be the deciding point of the match. UCLA led at halftime 8-4 and seemed to take the crowd completely out of the match.
UCLA continued its onslaught as it put the match away in the second half by outscoring UCI 4-1. Junior Jesse Hatch scored the last goal for the Anteaters in the ending minutes of the fourth period. Colin Mello’s three goals gave him 24 goals in the season.
After the first period, UCLA dominated UCI in every possible category. UCLA’s offense was constantly attacking the Anteater’s goalie, senior Matt Garcia, who faced 21 shots on goal, stopping nine of them.
UCLA’s ability to take advantage of second-chance opportunities really helped put distance between itself and UCI. Its defense was stifling after the first period, not letting Irvine get any interior shots.
UCI converted three goals out of the eight it they took in the first quarter, but failed to find the net in the next four attempts during the second; it finished just one for seven in that period. After its third goal which came in the first, the Eaters missed 17 consecutive shots leading up to the half.
‘I thought [UCLA] played well. At the same time, however, I thought we made some crucial errors. So I guess that’s a positive we can take out of this; especially at this time of the season,’ said Head Coach Marc Hunt. ‘When you’re making the mistakes on your side, that’s something you can improve on.’
The numbers indicate the Anteaters can improve in virtually ever facet of their game. Garcia had just nine saves in the goal while the offense was unable to relieve any of the pressure.
Mello led UCI with three goals but, overall, UCI scored on just five of the 32 shots it took all night.
One of the keys for UCLA was to reverse the fortunes of UCI senior and All-American Tim Hutten.
In the previous contest between the teams, Hutten notched seven goals, keeping UCI in contention for four quarters. The Bruins obviously came prepared to keep Hutten quiet all night.
Hutten failed to even get a shot off in the first half. After halftime, he managed to take five shots, but to no avail.
Keeping Hutten scoreless was essentially the x-factor of the game. On Sept. 22 when the Bruins prevailed 12-11, Hutten’s seven goals accounted for the only main difference between UCI’s previous contest and Friday’s.
UCLA Head Coach Adam Krikorian knew he wouldn’t let Hutten have nearly the success he did last time.
‘We were pretty disappointed [with the previous game’s performance]. Tim Hutten is an unbelievable player, but I don’t care how good you are, I don’t think you should be scoring seven goals,’ Krikorian told the Daily Pilot.
The defeat was the most lopsided outcome the Anteaters had surrendered all season. Prior to Friday’s loss, they had been victorious in three of the last four games, but all three of their wins came by one goal. Twelve goals are the most UCI had given up in a four-quarter game.
Hunt would be asking too much from Hutten and Mello to always provide a barrage of goals in order to stay afloat. Conference games resume on Oct. 19. If the Anteaters intend on improving their No. 6 ranking, the defense will need to find their groove.
‘Any time in water polo when you let a team score 12 goals on you, your defense isn’t performing. I think we were bad all over the place,’ Hunt said.
The loss now puts Irvine at 6-4 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. UCLA is now 11-2 overall and 1-1 in the MPSF.
UCI looks to get revenge in the 2007 Southern California Men’s Water Polo Tournament, held at Anteater Pool and Corona del Mar High School on October 13-14. The 16-team field includes 14 of the nation’s top-ranked 18 teams.
UCI will look to rebound when they begin the tournament against UC San Diego on Oct. 13 at 12 p.m. at Anteater Pool.
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