UC Irvine 12
The UC Irvine men’s water polo team, playing in their final home stand of the season, pulled out a dramatic come-from-behind victory in overtime against rival Long Beach State on a chilly evening at Anteater Pool on Nov. 2.
The Anteaters trailed the 49ers 10-8 with just about two minutes left in the game, and looked destined for the their second straight loss, but the Anteaters clamped down on the defensive side of the ball and scored the final two goals of the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.
The rally first began when UCI sophomore driver Taylor Wells, responding to the sound of the Irvine crowd, scored his only goal of the night to narrow the 49er lead to 10-9.
On the following Anteater possession, UCI sophomore Cole Bielskis scored straight from the hole to tie the score at 10-10. Bielski’s goal was his third goal of the match and 22nd of the season. Neither team would score in the remaining minute, sending the game off to a two-period overtime.
This is where UCI junior driver Collin Mello aggressively took the game into his own hands and refused to allow the Anteaters to remain winless in the overtime period, as the team had been 0-5 in overtime games this season before Thursday night’s win.
Mello scored two goals for Irvine (8-14) during the first overtime period. The Anteaters played great defense in the first overtime period, shutting out the 49ers, giving Irvine a 12-10 advantage heading into the second overtime period.
Long Beach State’s Jay Gerardi ended the two-goal offensive streak, netting home the only 49er goal of the overtime period.
Irvine continued their strong defensive play during the rest of the overtime period as Anteaters hung on for the 12-11 win against the 49ers (7-13).
Mello, who was the star for the Anteaters in the overtime period, scored six goals in the game, adding to his team-leading 65 goals on the season. Freshman two-meter offensive player Greg Enloe, freshman driver Kyle Baxter, and Wells each added one goal for Irvine.
‘Every team is difficult,’ said March Hunt, head coach of the UCI men’s water polo team and former two time All-American player at UCI. ‘There is no way to predict how each game will go.’
Though the Anteaters trailed through most of the game, they were always within striking distance. After what seemed to be an evenly matched duel between both teams, Long Beach State controlled the game with a 6-5 lead at halftime.
UCI junior goalkeeper Matt Garcia did his part with eight saves on the night, allowing only three goals in the final three periods of the game.
With this win the Anteaters have now won two of their last three games and, in the process, snapped Long Beach State’s two-game winning streak.
On Sunday Nov. 5, the men’s water polo team faced UC Santa Barbara (18-11) at home and lost to the Gauchos 9-5.
The Anteaters jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and looked poised for the upset. However, Santa Barbara came back and scored three goals in the second, third and fourth periods for the win.
Garcia had another good game behind the net, recording nine saves and holding the Gauchos scoreless in the first period.
Wells led the team with three goals in the loss while Bielskis added two goals for the Anteaters.
After finishing the season on a long road trip, the Anteaters will look to continue their season if they are granted an invitation to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship Tournament from Nov. 26 to 28.