The UC Irvine men’s water polo team showed signs of growth as they stretched their win streak to six after winning all three of their games this week. On Thursday the Anteaters took out Long Beach State 9-8 in overtime, while on Saturday, Irvine beat UC Santa Barbara 10-8 and Cal Baptist, 14-8. The ’Eaters are now 12-5 overall, and 1-0 in conference play.
“We had a tough loss the week before, but we bounced back and got three key wins,” Head Coach Marc Hunt said. “This week it was huge to get these three more in a row. We are no where near the promised land, but we are growing and maturing as a team.”
The Anteaters kicked off their week and their conference season against a tough Long Beach State team. Previously, the 49ers beat the Anteaters 8-7, so the ’Eaters had their work cut out for them. However, Brandon Johnson put in a goal in the second overtime period on a man-down play to edge the Anteaters over the 49ers.
At first, the Anteaters fell behind two goals in the first quarter and it looked like it would be a repeat of the two teams’ last meeting. However, Irvine bounced back by scoring on Long Beach State in both the second and third quarters. At the start of the fourth quarter, Irvine had their own two goal lead. Long Beach was quick to close the gap, however, and converted goals early in the fourth quarter to tie the game sending the teams into a double overtime.
“It was a great win,” Hunt said, “Long Beach is a tough team but we got our conference play started off in the right direction and it shows that we are growing.”
UCI 10, UCSB 8
UC Irvine took on eighth ranked UC Santa Barbara on Saturday in another close fourth quarter game. It took a 3-0 run against the Gauchos in the fourth quarter to overcome an 8-7 deficit to win the game.
The game went neck-in-neck; both teams were unable to pull away from the other for the first half. At the end of the first half, the score was 5-5 and neither team had a lead more than one goal. However, UC Santa Barbara went on a 2-0 run in the fourth quarter to pull ahead of Irvine, 8-7.
The Anteaters would not be put down so easily, however, as they responded to the Santa Barbara run with a game winning 3-0 run of their own.
“Last week we had trouble executing, but this week we did a better job,” Hunt said. “We got the opportunities against a resilient [Santa Barbara team].”
Coming off a strong win against Santa Barbara, the Anteaters handily took out Cal Baptist later that same day.
The Anteaters came out gunning, getting off to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. From then on, the momentum never stopped, as the Anteaters pulled the lead to 9-3 at the end of the second quarter and then expanded the six-goal lead to nine by the end of the third quarter, 12-3.
However, the fourth quarter provided a bit of a wake-up call for the seemingly unstoppable Anteaters as Cal Baptist scored five goals in the fourth quarter. Five goals are the most any team has scored on Irvine in a quarter in more than three weeks.
“You have to give every team a certain level of respect, you can not take them for granted,” Hunt said. “[Cal Baptist] scoring five goals on us is definitely not something that we wanted to happen, or should of happened.”
The ’Eaters look to continue their winning streak against UC San Diego on Friday at the Anteater pool in a non-conference match.
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