The UC Irvine men’s water polo team went 2-1 this weekend at the Mountain Sports Pacific Federation Tournament (MSPF), placing fifth.
“We did a great job competing for the national championship. Coming fifth is a little bitter sweet, but I am very happy with how well we performed,” Head Coach Marc Hunt said.
The Anteaters brought down UC Santa Barbara, 12-9, and Pepperdine University, 14-8, while losing to Cal, 6-5, in the opening round. Cal played UCLA in the finals of the tournament on Sunday.
“It’s unfortunate we didn’t get to advance but the message we wanted to send is we belong in the national championship and I believe we sent that message. Both of the teams in the finals we lost by one goal, we were right there with them,” Hunt said.
UC Irvine 5, UC Berkeley 6
The sixth seed Anteaters took on the third seed Golden Bears in a nail-biter of the first round, but was edged out in the fourth quarter after being outscored 3-2 by Cal.
“We played a great game against Cal. They are a good team and we lost by one goal. The way we played it could have very easily been us in the finals of the tournament,” Hunt said.
Irvine got off to a strong start opening the game with a 3-1 run to lead California in the first quarter. However, Cal managed to slow down the Anteaters in the second period, keeping Irvine scoreless.
The Golden Bears began to turn the momentum around and go on their own run in the third period tying the game at 3-3.
California continued to bring the heat, stretching their run to 4-0, bringing the lead to 5-3 in the middle of the fourth.
The Anteaters tried to inch their way back with a goal from senior Brandon Johnson bringing the score to 5-4, but it was too little too late. Cal kept the pressure on by stretching the lead back to two with four minutes left in the game. The Anteaters scored one more goal with 1:03 remaining, bringing the tally to 6-5, but was unable to score again in the game.
“We had a tough first round game. Unfortunately, we were not able to hold on and we dropped to a lower bracket,” Hunt said.
UCI 12, UCSB 9
Coming off a tough loss against California, UC Irvine came out strong against seventh seed UC Santa Barbara, defeating the Gauchos 12-9.
“We came into this tournament looking to improve throughout this tournament and that’s what we did. We made the improvements we needed to make and turned the lights out against Santa Barbara,” Hunt said.
The Anteaters opened the game with a 3-1 run bringing the tally to 4-2 with Irvine leading in the first quarter. However, the Guachos were quick to respond with a 3-1 run of their own in the second period. At the end of the first half both teams were even at 5-5.
The third quarter, however, was dominated by the Anteaters after they opened with three consecutive goals by seniors Tom Kruip, Greg Enloe, and James Frank. UCI was able to maintain the three goal lead for the rest of the quarter ending the third period up 10-7.
The Anteaters earned their largest lead of the game, 12-7 early in the fourth quarter, and the Gauchos were never able to come within more than three of UC Irvine after that.
UCI 14, Pepperdine 8
The Anteaters faced fifth seed Pepperdine in the fifth place game of the MPSF tournament on Sunday. UCI beat Pepperdine 14-8, despite losing 10-9 the last time these two teams met just two weeks ago.
“The last time we met we lost in five overtimes. To make such a difference in such a short amount of time — I am very proud of my team,” Hunt said.
The Anteaters, as they had in the rest of the tournament, came out gunning in the first quarter, going on a 5-1 run to open the first period. The run in the first quarter was the biggest run in the tournament for the Anteaters.
Pepperdine began to cut into the lead, outscoring Irvine 4-3 in the second, ending the half at 8-5 with Irvine leading. The second quarter however, was the only quarter Pepperdine would outscore UC Irvine.
The Anteaters went on to stretch the lead to five by the end of the third period at 11-6, and then closed the game out in the fourth period stretching the lead to six at 14-8.
The Anteaters now await the results of the NCAA Championship field announcement.