Two weekends ago, the UCLA men’s water polo team upset the then-#1 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, 9-8, in the semifinals of the SoCal Invitational. Tonight, the teams meet at Spieker Aquatics Center for the second and final time during the regular season.
Last Time Out
Last Friday night, the Bruins hosted Long Beach State and UCLA had wrapped this game up less than two minutes into the second half.
That’s because the Bruins went on a first half scoring barrage, netting seven goals in the first two quarters. Matthew Kacura put UCLA on the board first with a goal less than a minute and a half into the game, but Long Beach State tied it a minute later. It remained that way until Nicolas Saveljic scored with 1:02 left in the quarter, but the 49ers tied it back up 16 seconds later.
The second quarter started like the first. Jake Cavano scored first for UCLA, but the 49ers tied it again just 38 seconds later. Tommy Gruwell gave the Bruins another lead on a power play goal with 4:23 left in the half but, again Long Beach State evened it up. Finally, with 3:42 left, Gruwell scored again and the Bruins had a 5-4 lead and they had the lead for good. Both of Cavano’s and Saveljic’s second goals came on penalty shots that made it 7-4 at the half.
Ashworth Molthen made it four consecutive goals for UCLA when he scored a minute and forty-four seconds into the third quarter. That was the Bruins’ only third quarter goal, but it proved to be the game-winner.
In the fourth quarter, Gruwell finished off his hat trick while Molthen scored his second goal of the half and Brock Petersen scored the final goal of the game with 1:28 left and the Bruins won their tenth game of the season.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
The Gauchos are playing some of the best water polo in the nation so far this year. How good? Well, it was good enough to earn them the #1 ranking before they came into the SoCal Invitational two weeks ago and lost to UCLA in a very close 9-8 game.
I’m not expecting this one to be any easier either.
It may be another nail-biter and it may even go into OT. But, ultimately in the end, the good guys take this one home due in large part to home pool advantage, but only by a goal or two at most.