The UC Irvine men’s water polo team beat rival Long Beach State and Concordia last week at home, and are ranked ninth in NCAA Division 1 as they go into the final stretch of the conference schedule. The team is on a roll, winning seven of their past eight games. Sophomore goalkeeper Matt Johnson had an amazing 13 saves against Long Beach, while his brother Brandon Johnson tied his own career high with six goals in each game last week.
UCI 12 vs. Long Beach State 9
An enthusiastic crowd packed the Anteater Pool bleachers for Wednesday night’s “Black and Blue” rivalry game against the Long Beach State 49ers. The team’s only senior, Jesse Hatch scored the opening goal for the Anteaters as Brandon Johnson followed making the second goal for UCI. Long Beach also scored two goals in the first period to tie the score 2-2.
Brandon Johnson was on fire scoring twice in the opening minutes of the second period followed by another goal later in the period. After a time out at 2:50, junior James Frank scored, electrifying the crowd. UCI ended the first half of the game with a great save by Matt Johnson in the last few seconds of the period, Anteaters leading by two.
Peter the Anteater pumped up the crowd during halftime as the Anteaters returned to the pool for an amazing third period scoring five goals in total. Both B. Johnson and junior Greg Enloe scored two goals in the third. M. Johnson made two powerful saves denying a score from Long Beach in the third period. Hatch scored the fifth goal of the period with only 18 seconds left on the clock, giving the ‘Eaters a firm lead of 11-4.
The Anteaters tried to maintain their strong lead, but Long Beach managed to score five goals in the forth period including one penalty shot to narrow the gap, bringing the score to 11-9.
With just under two minutes on the clock, the rowdy crowd anxiously chanted and cheered as Hatch scored the final goal of the game with 1:02 left on the clock for a final score of 12-9.
Nevertheless, Head Coach Marc Hunt was very pleased with the game.
“We’ve been working on playing together and communicating as a team. Tonight was a great collective effort,” Hunt said after the game. “We are trying to build consistency and tonight we took some good steps together.”
Brandon Johnson was hyped-up during the game and very happy with the team’s win.
“Those were the team’s best three quarters of the year,” said Brandon Johnson. “I was feeling great, the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
UCI 13 vs. Concordia 8
UC Irvine played cross-town school Concordia on Friday night at home in a non-conference match. The ‘Eaters played well with the team’s leading scorer Brandon Johnson scoring six goals, and junior Greg Enloe scoring three to defeat Concordia 13-8.
Junior Thomas Kruip and Brandon Johnson scored at the beginning of the first period. Concordia also scored two goals, including a penalty shot. Brandon Johnson received a long pass with 34 seconds on the clock to score the third goal, giving UCI a 3-2 lead.
Enloe scored two goals in the second period; Brandon Johnson scored his third goal of the game with just under a minute left in the period. The ‘Eaters lead 6-4 at halftime.
Sophomore Griffin Lerman scored for UCI halfway through the third period with just over four minutes on the clock. Enloe scored shortly after, followed by goal by Brandon Johnson. Freshmen Sam Figueroa scored in the last 10 seconds of the third period, helping the Anteaters keep their lead 10-7.
UCI maintained great play throughout the last period starting with a goal by freshmen Trent Baxter. Brandon Johnson scored his fifth and sixth goals of the game while Concordia only scoring once by a penalty shot (three of Concordia’s goals in the game were penalty shots). The Anteaters won 13-8 continuing their winning streak.
Enloe commented on the team’s unifying effort.
“We have really come together as a group, making the team more successful as a whole.” Enloe said. “We had to come together to figure out how to play as a team and we’re consistently working hard.”
UCI travels to number two Stanford on Nov. 1 to start a series of three conference games on the road.The Anteater water polo team is a part of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation which is made up of eight teams – nine of them ranked in the top 10 of NCAA Division I.
Coach Hunt and the team are preparing for the tough competition, but feeling confident.
“November is our toughest month,” Hunt said. “These are going to be the hardest, yet most important games, but this team plays pretty strong on the road.”
The ‘Eaters return to Anteater Pool for their final home games Saturday Nov. 15 against Pacific, and Sunday Nov. 16 against UC Berkeley.