UCLA Men's Water Polo - 2015 MPSF Tournament Quarterfinal
Opponent: #8 Long Beach State (11-14, 2-7)
When: 4:00 PM PST, Friday, November 20, 2015
Where: Uytengsu Aquatics Center, Los Angeles, CA
Video: USC Live Stream
Live Stats: The Fosh
Before I preview today's game, let me take a moment to put into perspective the remarkable achievements of Coach Adam Wright's squad this season. Since the 2014 Bruins beat Southern Cal for the national title last December, UCLA has gone 25-0, extending its winning streak to 28 games and finishing with a perfect 9-0 conference record. The Bruins have captured the MPSF regular season title, the Kap7 NorCal Invitational title, the Kap7 SoCal Invitational title, and are the number 1 seed in the MPSF tournament.
The Bruins have also held the top spot in the CWPA Coaches Poll throughout the season, and along the way have defeated #2 Pacific once, #3 California thrice, #4 USC twice, #5 Stanford twice, #6 UCSB once, #7 UC Irvine twice, #8 Long Beach State once, and #9 UC Davis once. That means that over half of the Bruins' wins this season have been against teams currently ranked in the national top-10.
Obviously, Coach Wright has an amazing group of student-athletes, and he's had them playing well throughout the season. Or at least so far. This afternoon the Bruins will face #8 Long Beach State in the last of today's tournament quarterfinals. The 49ers advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating #13 Pepperdine 11-8 in a play-in game earlier today.
This should be a straightforward match for UCLA. Long Beach State was just 2-7 in the MPSF, and the Bruins beat the 49ers 11-4 less than two weeks ago. Nevertheless, it was just about this time last season--in an MPSF semifinal--that Long Beach State upset the Bruins 5-3. That was the Bruins' last loss.
If UCLA takes care of business this afternoon against Long Beach State, the Bruins will meet the Trojans again in the first of tomorrow's semifinals. #4 USC needed overtime today to beat #5 Stanford, 7-6. #3 Cal and #2 Pacific will meet in the other semifinal. Although the Bruins earned a convincing 11-6 win over Southern Cal last Sunday, the Trojans are fighting to keep their chances of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament alive, and they're bound to be tougher to beat in their home pool than they were at Spieker.
Given the tough matches likely ahead for Saturday and Sunday, if the Bruins can build a significant lead by the third quarter, don't be surprised to see Coach Wright bring in some of his bench players to give them tournament experience and to give his starters a bit of rest. The Bruins depth is impressive, and as we've seen many times already this season, the bench players can get the job done.
I have no doubt that UCLA will extend its winning streak to 29 today. The Bruins slipped in last year's tourney, so they'll be especially determined to claim the tournament title this season.