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UCI Men’s Water Polo Upset Hopes Dashed by #1 Stanford

By Brian Sui

Update 10/18/2019: This article’s structure has been updated to improve clarity as the previous version was not written in chronological order

The #13 ranked UCI men’s water polo fell 16-7 against the #1 ranked Stanford Cardinals at the Anteater aquatics center this past Sunday, a hard loss for the Anteaters who were looking to prove that they could compete with the best. 

The game started off strong for Irvine, as they held Stanford to a 1-1 tie after second-year Ivan Mercep evened the score with a power-play goal with five minutes left in the first quarter. 

“Let’s get another one,” Mercep said when asked what he was thinking when he scored the first goal.

The Cardinals built up a 4-1 lead at the end despite the Anteaters out-shooting Stanford during the rest of the first quarter.

Photo Courtesy by Sahil Jagad

The Cardinals quickly ran up the score sheet during the rest of the second quarter while the Anteaters were held back by the Stanford defense. The streak was finally broken when fourth-year Bryant Joudrie scored right as the shot clock expired. The goal was assisted by fourth-year teammate Foster Hoose.

“It felt really good because Joudrie’s my boy and it always feels nice dishing them out. Nice little pass for a little assist and a goal,” Hoose said of his assist. That was the only goal from UCI of the second quarter, as Stanford commanded a 9-2 lead.

The Anteaters were unable to generate much offense, particularly in front of the net. The Cardinals successfully pressured the attacking Anteaters by forcing quick passes rather than taking longer, direct shots at the ‘Eaters net. 

When the Anteaters took shots, they were often from out of the five-meter zone, which their Stanford opponents were able to block or save with ease.

UCI got into some penalty trouble early into third quarter that resulted in two quick Stanford goals. The Anteaters got back on the score sheet in the third quarter when Mercep struck again on the power play with his second goal of the night. Mercep was parked in front of the Stanford goal as Joudrie came up with the assist. 

While Stanford rebounded with another two goals after that, Joudrie responded with his own second goal of the game, doubling UCI’s goals in that quarter. The third period ended 15-4 after two more goals from the Cardinals.

UCI’s offense was notably improved in the third quarter. Along with the two goals, the ‘Eater’s out-shot Stanford 9-8. The Anteaters were swimming noticeably faster during the third quarter, weakening the Cardinals’ defensive pressure. With that advantage, UCI’s offense was then able to get more shot opportunities. 

“I really wanted to just get back at them,” Jourdie said of the re-energized offense. “Seeing them put the ball into our cage is not fun to see. I just wanted to be aggressive on offense and really make hard moves for the ball and just make my shots and find my teammates when they’re open.”

Photo Courtesy by Sahil Jagad

The Anteater’s coaching staff decided to change goalkeepers at the start of the fourth and final quarter. Fourth-year Chandler Mankins subbed in for first-year Collin Winters. 

The Anteaters opened up the scoring in the fourth quarter with an across pool assist from Joudrie to third-year Carson Arnett resulting in Arnett’s first and only goal of the game, making it Joudrie’s second assist. Stanford responded three minutes later, bringing the score to 16-5, but that would be the last Cardinal goal of the night. 

The Anteaters scored back-to-back goals for the first time to end off the game with third-year Jason Evezard assisting second-year Grant Chiponis in scoring the point in the last minute of the game. 

“When I was making that shot I was just trying to get the ball and just trying to get a goal on the board to keep score and keep the momentum up. You know just not giving up, to keep pushing,” Chipolis said of his goal.

A UCI missed penalty shot ended the game, with a final score of 16-7. They fall to a record of 6-7 overall in the season.

Photo Courtesy by Sahil Jagad

The Anteater’s defensive plays were key to the lack of shots made by Stanford during the fourth quarter. For the last eight minutes, UCI’s defense was impenetrable, as Stanford’s shots during the final period were mostly attempts from beyond the five-meter line.

“You can expect to hear my voice a lot this Friday. I’m going to really try and talk and communicate with my teammates. It’s gonna be a fun game so all the fans should definitely come out,” Joudrie said when asked about how the team expects to move on from this loss.

The Anteaters look to rebound against Pepperdine on Friday, Oct. 18th.