The two-time defending National Champion UCLA Men’s Water Polo team (15-0) has not lost a contest since falling to Long Beach State in the 49ers’ pool on November 22, 2014. That’s 708 days since the men in the pool for UCLA have tasted defeat.
During that time period the Bruins have won 48 straight games. The UCLA record for consecutive wins is 50, which the Bruins accomplished between 1964 and 1968.
A lot has changed in the collegiate sport of men’s water polo since UCLA’s 50 game streak in the Sixties. Although the Bruins went undefeated in ‘65, ‘66, and ‘67, teams only played approximately 15 or so games in a season. Although I was not alive at the time, I daresay that the competition back then was likely not as robust as it is today.
In the present, due to the relative strength of the sport in the western United States (and especially California) as compared to the rest of the nation, the level of competition is not on par with other, more national sports. Indeed, presently nine of the top ten ranked teams hail from the Golden State (the lone exception, Harvard, is 8th).
The competition in the present, however, is orders of magnitude better than it was in the 1960s. If UCLA is able to match the streak with two victories today, it would be a monumental accomplishment.
To match the streak, the Bruins will need to prevail in two back-to-back contests today at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center (not to be confused with the Spieker Aquatics Complex which, I learned last weekend, is the name of UC Berkeley’s home pool).
UCLA will first battle #13 UC Irvine (7-5) at 12 p.m. The Anteaters are a solid squad, but do not have the talent that UCLA has. Against commons opponents this season, Pomona-Pitzer, Loyoloa Marymount, Cal Baptist, and Pepperdine, UCLA is undefeated and UCI is 2-3. The Bruins, however, cannot afford to overlook UC Irvine and, under the leadership of Head Coach Adam Wright, the Bruins will be prepared.
Right after the UC Irvine match, the Bruins will face Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (4-9). Although a fine academic institution, the water polo program at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps does not hold a candle to that of UCLA. The Stags have gotten smoked when they play competition that comes close to that of the Bruins. For example, #2 ranked UC Berkeley, whom UCLA beat 10-7 to win the prestigious Mountain Pacific Invitational last weekend, beat Claremont-Mudd-Scripps earlier this season 27-5. Pepperdine, whom UCLA has beaten twice this season, beat the Stags, 26-4. Expect a similar result today against the Bruins.
Fittingly, today is the UCLA Men’s Water Polo team’s Alumni Day. After the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps match, UCLA will play an exhibition game against the UCLA alumni. That might be the most competitive match of the day for the Bruins. At 5 p.m., the team will host a Bruin Bash to benefit the program at the W Hotel in Westwood.
It should be a festive day at the Spieker Aquatics Center! If you live in L.A., it is definitely worth checking out.