Polo Wilts Under Pressure
The No. 7 UC Irvine men’s water polo suffered two devastating losses this week. First, against No. 9 Long Beach State, 7-8, and then against No. 2 UCLA, 4-11. The losses pushed the Anteater’s overall record to 6-4 this season.
The first Irvine loss came at the hands of ninth ranked Long Beach State on Thursday at the 49er pool. The loss came less than one week after the Anteaters defeated the 49ers in the NorCal Tournament, 9-8.
Down only one point in the game, UCI had a chance to send the game into overtime. The last second shot was barely deflected out-of-bounds by the fingertips of Long Beach State.
UCI went neck and neck with Long Beach in the beginning quarter, but the Anteaters began to pull away in the second quarter after going on a 3-1 run to take a 5-2 at the end of the half.
However, unlike in the previous encounter in the NorCal Tournament, Long Beach State bounced back quick after falling behind to tie the game up 5-5 at the end of the third quarter.
It looked as if the Anteaters were going to pull away for a second time after Tom Kruip put in one of his four goals to lift Irvine up 7-6 late in the fourth quarter. Long Beach State would not be put down so easily. The 49ers tied the game with 2:43 remaining, and then scored another goal to take the lead back 7-8 with 1:08 to go.
Kruip led all scorers in the game with four goals while Cole Bielskis added two more.
The Anteaters’ game on Saturday against the Bruins did not fare any better. UCI got off to a slow start falling behind UCLA 3-1 in the first quarter. The Bruins went on to build on that lead after going on a 3-0 run in the second period to lead 6-1 at the half.
It looked as if the Anteaters would make a run in the third when Bielskis netted a goal just :34 seconds into the period to bring the score to 6-2. The Anteaters never fully recovered from the staggering deficit as the Bruins continued to build their lead to 8-3 at the end of the third. UCLA eventually stretched the lead to 11-4 toward the end of the fourth.
Matt Johnson led both teams with nine saves while Bielskis led UCI with three goals.
Irvine will now take some time off from matches in order to get ready for the upcoming SoCal tournament and conference play which begins in November.
The Anteaters’ next match will be at the SoCal Tournament on Sept 10 in Irvine at the Anteater pool.