UC Irvine men’s water polo team (13-9) took on UC San Diego (9-13) Wednesday and Cal State Long Beach (14-11) Friday in a Black and Blue game this past weekend to conclude the regular season. The ‘Eaters picked up a decisive win against San Diego, besting the Tritons 11-4, but fell short in a close loss to CSULB, 7-8.
Against the Tritons Wednesday, UCI took charge of the game early, keeping UCSD off the board during the first and almost halfway into the second quarter thanks to some lockdown defense and several key saves, including a blocked penalty shot by senior goalkeeper Matej Matijevic.
Multiple ‘Eaters scored, extending their lead to 11-2 with just over five minutes left in the fourth. The Tritons, who had no answer for the Anteaters’ offense, were able to tack on two points at the end of the game to make the final score 11-4.
Moving on to Friday, the ‘Eaters looked ready to take on the rival ‘49ers in a Black and Blue grudge match. Both teams had significant support in the stands, adding to the already electrifying atmosphere at the Anteater Aquatics Complex. Prior to the game, seniors Matej Matijevic, Kyle Trush, Lovre Milos, Robby Stiefel, Antoine Lena, Ryan Warde and Brendan Duffy were recognized.
The ‘Eaters performed well, but could not take a lead during the heated game. The ‘49ers were first on the board, but senior defender Kyle Trush quickly equalized the game 1-1. This pattern was repeated throughout the game: Long Beach would put up a point or two and the ‘Eaters would answer. The first quarter concluded 1-2 for Long Beach. Early in the second UCI tied the game 2-2 on a breakaway shot from Milos. Both teams were applying high pressure on both sides of the ball. Defense dominated the game, with many offensive chances resulting in turnovers and blocked shots. However, some shots snuck through and at the halfway point, the ‘Eaters trailed 3-5.
Moving to the second half, the game became even more heated and physical. The teams traded goals moving into the final quarter, making the score 5-7. UCI went down another goal at the start of the fourth, putting them in a three goal deficit.
Despite this, the ‘Eaters showed perseverance; Stiefel made the game 6-8, and with 0:56 left to play, Milos brought the Anteaters within one goal, giving the ‘Eaters a glimmer of hope. After a turnover in the offensive zone however, Long Beach played keep-away with the ball as the clock expired. The final score, 7-8.
Though the regular season is over, on Nov. 17, 18, and 19 UCI will be in their Conference Tournament at the Anteaters Aquatics Complex.
“Our goal is to be in the conference championship; we want to win it,” head coach Marc Hunt stated in regards to their attitude moving into the postseason. “This loss will sharpen our resolve this week, and help us get keyed in.”