Off to a slow start, the eighth-ranked UC Irvine Men’s Water Polo team fell to the fourth-ranked UCLA Bruins, 10-7, in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference match-up at the Anteater Aquatics Complex on Nov. 8.
A poor first half put UCI down 7-3 giving UCLA the lead they needed to win the game.
‘We played a terrible first quarter. When you try to catch up, it’s hard,’ said Anteater Head Coach Ted Newland. ‘The first quarter we just didn’t communicate. If you don’t communicate, you’re in trouble.’
UCLA Head Coach Adam Krikorian said that the big lead in the first quarter helped his team ‘feel confident in the game and get [us] going. Thankfully for us, we came out and played well from the beginning.’
But UCI (10-13, 2-4 MPSF) did not go down without a fight. The Anteaters came out in the second half with two awesome goals from juniors Dan Noon and Rick Merlo. Noon broke out with a quick counterattack goal followed shortly by Merlo’s sweet bar down on a man-up power play.
In a rally during the fourth quarter, junior utility Cameron Basset and freshman driver Tim Hutten brought the Anteaters within two goals of the Bruins.
‘The second half of the game we came back with our heads on,’ Merlo said. ‘We decided to start playing good defense and [our] offense just fell in place and it was our game.’
‘We fought back and showed that we can adjust and play a good game. It shows we can compete with the top teams in the nation,’ Noon said.
UCLA’s (16-5, 5-1) victory was sealed by junior Brett Ormsby, who scored on a power play with 52 seconds left in the game.
UCI was unable to stop Ormsby who scored five of the 10 goals for the Bruins.
The Anteaters’ tough defense in the second half shut down the Bruins’ two-meter players and gave them a chance to work their own offense.
Sophomore goalie Joe Wynn backed up Irvine’s defense with six saves while junior goalie Joseph Axelrod recorded nine for UCLA.
The Anteaters worked as a team to get on the scoreboard, tallying seven goals between six players, including two from Hutten.
UCI, still improving as the season progresses, will use this game to get ready for their upcoming conference matches.
‘We’re getting there, but nothing happens quickly,’ Newland said.