As we enter the last two months of 2016, the respective regular seasons for UCLA’s Fall Olympic sports are coming to a close. Today’s Bruin Bites will take a look two of those sports, Men’s Water Polo and Women’s Volleyball. Specifically, we will summarize the season that each has had relative to expectations, examine what is still to come for those teams, and prognosticate regarding the postseason for each of these teams. Tomorrow we will conduct the same analysis of the 2016 editions of the UCLA Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams. Let’s start with Men’s Water Polo . . .
Men’s Water Polo
Season to Date:
The UCLA Men’s Water Polo team (22-0; 2-0 MPSF) has won 55 straight games, an NCAA record. The Bruins have not lost since November of 2014. The Bruins are (obviously) the top ranked team in the country.
UCLA’s streak, however, was threatened this past weekend, as the Bruins did not play their best game but did what great teams do—find a way to win when they are not at their best. UCLA held off #6 Stanford in dramatic fashion, 7-6, with UCLA’s Patrick Feller notching the game winner with 1:47 left in the contest. The goal gave Fellner a hat trick and helped the Bruins win a game that was tied 5-5 at the half and, after a scoreless third quarter, still tied.
Although I cannot say that I thought that UCLA would be undefeated through 22 matches, the Bruins are where I thought they would be at this stage of the season: favorites to three-peat as NCAA Champs.
UCLA only has three more regular season games left to play, including a doubleheader at home next weekend against San Jose State and Whittier, followed by an epic showdown at #3 Southern Cal on Saturday, November 12th.
The MPSF Championships will be held at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center on November 18th through the 20th. The NCAA Championships will be held at UC Berkeley the weekend of December 3rd and 4th.
The two-time defending National Champions have to be considered the favorite to take both the MPSF and the NCAA crowns this season. Having said that, every remaining team after San Jose State and Whittier next Saturday will be against excellent competition that is capable of beating UCLA if the Bruins have another day like they did last Saturday.
The Bruins did not play to their admittedly high standards against Stanford. Another game like that later in the season could crush UCLA’s dreams of a third straight championship.
Season to Date:
The UCLA Women’s Volleyball team (18-4; 9-3 PAC 12) was predicted by PAC 12 coaches to finish second in the PAC 12 and, at this point, UCLA is right where they were predicted to be, sitting second in the PAC 12. Technically, the Bruins have the same conference record as the Washington Huskies and are tied for first, but Washington leads UCLA in overall record, 19-3 to 18-4.
UCLA is riding a six-game winning streak and is ranked #12 as of October 24th. New rankings will come out today and UCLA could move up after a pair of wins at home over the weekend.
Last Friday at the John Wooden Center, UCLA held off Colorado in five sets, after winning the first two sets and losing the next next two. UCLA followed that with a much stronger effort against better competition on Saturday at Pauley Pavillion, sweeping Utah in straight sets.
UCLA has eight regular season games remaining, all of them in the PAC 12 Conference, including the Bruins’ only matchup against Washington this season, which will take place in Seattle the day before Thanksgiving.
This weekend, UCLA travels to the Arizona schools, playing the Arizona Wildcats on Friday, November 4th at 6 p.m., followed by the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday, November 5th, TBA.
As of last Monday, UCLA’s RPI was #10. As long as the Bruins continue the success that they have had so far this season, there should be no reason that UCLA is not one of the 16 seeded teams in the tournament, which would give UCLA home court advantage in the first round and, if the Bruins prevail, the second round.
If the Bruins can finish strong and win the PAC 12, the Bruins could be in the mix for a top-four seed and possible hosting of rounds three and four, assuming UCLA advances that far.
Last season UCLA went 25-8, 14-6 in the PAC 12, and made it to the sweet sixteen. The 2016 squad appears to be a better team that that of 2015 and, therefore, I am hoping for the Bruins to exceed their postseason results of last year.
That is it for today’s Bruin Bites. Check in tomorrow for Part II, where we will analyze Men’s and Women’s Soccer.