#3 UCLA Men's Water Polo Opens Season With Doubleheader
The Bruins will play UC Berkeley this morning and Southern Cal this evening.
Today, UCLA sports is back in a big way. The Bruins will be playing in eight different sporting events today and there are eight more tomorrow. While the swimming and diving team starts it off with an all day tri-meet against Arizona and host Southern Cal. The men’s and women’s tennis teams are slated to begin play today, too, as is the gymnastics team which hosts Arizona State this afternoon. Meanwhile, the men’s basketball team visits Stanford in Santa Cruz because Santa Clara County won’t allow sporting events of any kind.
The other team which opens their season today is the men’s water polo team. Last season, which seems so long ago at this point, saw the Bruins miss the NCAA Tournament after losing to Stanford in the MPSF semifinals and to Southern Cal in the consolation game.
This year’s schedule is, well, different.
Gone, at least for now, are the non-conference opponents and the various tournaments the team usually plays in. In their place is a nine-game conference schedule which features UC Berkeley four times, Southern Cal four times and Stanford once. UCLA’s schedule announcement was quick to add, however, that the Bruins “could possibly add more” games to the schedule.
All games seem to be MSPF conference games, which is different from past seasons when tournament games between MSPF schools didn’t count towards the standings and only a handful of games towards the end of the season counted in the standings which were then used for seeding the MPSF Tournament.
The other interesting schedule note is that the Bruins will play all nine games on the road and they aren’t scheduled to play a game in Westwood until the MSPF Tournament.
Today, the Bruins open with a doubleheader against UC Berkeley and Southern Cal in Berkeley. They will follow today’s games with a doubleheader tomorrow as well.
This schedule looks to be tough because UCLA, Stanford, Southern Cal and UC Berkeley are usually the top dogs in men’s water polo. So, the strength of their schedule is off the charts and it’s completely possible that one or more of these teams could finish the season with a losing record which has been unheard of until now.
Let’s look at this year’s roster.
The two biggest losses from last season are goalkeeper Alex Wolf and attacker/utility player James Vlachonassios. Both were seniors last year and have graduated.
Several other players are no longer with the team. At the top of that list is Ashworth Molthen who transferred to Southern Cal. Michael Graner, Levon Gukasyan, Matthew Kacura, Will Morgan, Chase Petersen, Brock Petersen, Morio Saito, and Henry Wilde have all left the team.
Meanwhile, head coach Adam Wright has added 11 freshmen to fill out his roster.
One of the biggest additions looks to be attacker Mo Kenney. Hopefully, he will be called upon to make up some of the production lost by the transfer of Molthen.
Other incoming freshman include Gianpiero Di Martire, Garret Griggs, Alec Johnson, Mo Kenney, Jake Leonard, Luke Makshanoff, Hayden Nightingale, Guillermo Ocasio, Tanner Pulice, Maximo Rossi, and Ethan Shipman. Of these players, it looks like Di Martire will redshirt, but the others may all see some time.
With almost half the roster made up of freshmen or redshirt freshmen, this year’s team is extremely young. Hopefully, Coach Wright has recruited well and brought in guys who can contribute starting this morning against UC Berkeley.
This team features a solid core of returning veterans. The team has three seniors in Felix Brozyna-Vilim, Nicolas Saveljic, and Chasen Travisano to build around while underclassmen Evan Rosenfield, Jake Cavano and Tommy Gruwell should help this team compete in the MPSF.
There’s one other note as far as who’s back. Former player and assistant coach Jack Grover has returned as an assistant coach this season.
#3 UCLA Men’s Water Polo (0-0)
Where: Spieker Aquatics Complex, Berkeley, CA
Live TV/Audio/Stream/Stats: None
Opponent #1: #5 UC Berkeley Golden Bears (0-0)
Game Time: 10:30 am PT, Saturday, January 23, 2021
Live Stream: Pac-12.com
Live Stats: TheFosh.net
Opponent #2: #1 Southern Cal Trojans (0-0)
Game Time: 6:30 pm PT, Saturday, January 23, 2021
Live Stats: TheFosh.net