UCLA Men's Water Polo
Opponent: #4 Stanford (14-4, 0-1)
When: 10:30 AM PT, Saturday, October 17, 2015
Where: Avery Aquatic Center, Palo Alto, CA
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: None
Let me begin this preview with the most important news about today's match between the top-ranked, undefeated Bruins (17-0, 1-0) and #4 Stanford (14-4, 0-1): the contest will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks. Considering how rarely the Bruins' matches are televised, and considering how extraordinarily well Coach Wright's squad has opened the season, it's a must-see broadcast as far as I'm concerned.
If you've been following our water polo team this year, you know that they've captured two prestigious tournament titles (the Kap7 NorCal Invitational title and the Kap7 SoCal Invitational title) already this season, and in the process, have beaten #4 Stanford, #3 California (twice!), and #2 Southern Cal.
Tournament titles are nice, of course, but the Bruins focus is on securing the conference title, and beating Stanford on the road presents a serious hurdle for UCLA to clear. Although Stanford has four losses (UCLA, USC twice, and Cal), it would be a huge mistake to underestimate the Cardinal. Stanford lost by a single goal against the Bruins in the NorCal tournament, and lost in overtime against the Trojans in their MPSF opener. Moreover, with the Cardinal desperate to end a two-game skid, the Bruins will need to be in top form today.
Stanford may be in a mini-slump, but senior Bret Bonanni has been on fire. Bonanni leads the MPSF in scoring and has a 3.06 goals per game average. Redshirt junior Adam Abdulhamid is also dangerous, averaging over 2 goals per contest. Those two pace the Cardinal offense that ranks second in the conference with a 16 goals/game average.
Stanford's defense hasn't been quite as good this year as it has in the past, but Ssenior goalkeeper Drew Holland ranks fourth in the MPSF with a 6.95 goals against average.
In contrast, the Bruins are led by their defense and All-American goalkeeper Garrett Danner (6.07 GAA). UCLA leads the MPSF in team defense, and is third-ranked in team offense with a 15.24 goals/game average. The Bruins' leading scorer is Ryder Roberts who is fourth in the conference with a 2.36 goals/game average.
As was the case last year, these two teams are pretty evenly matched, so it's probable that today's contest will be decided by a single goal. And considering the fact that, historically, the conference winner typically hasn't lost more than one game in MPSF play, Stanford has its back to the wall today. However, unlike our football team, our water polo team is up to the challenge.
UCLA Women's Soccer
Opponent: Oregon State (5-5-3, 1-4-0)
When: 1:00 PM PT, Saturday, October 17, 2015
Where: Paul Lorenz Field, Corvallis, OR
Live Stats: Oregon State StatBroadcast
The 2015 Bruins remain a work in progress. Last weekend got off to a great start when UCLA beat #15 Arizona 5-1. Then, inexplicably, the Bruins could only manage a 1-1 draw against Arizona State two days later.
Oregon State isn't a particularly strong team, but playing in Corvallis presents an unusual challenge. As you may have seen when UCLA Men's Soccer played OSU, Paul Lorenz Field resembles a pasture, with the long, heavy and thick grass approximating a shag carpet. It can be very difficult to adapt to the playing conditions early in the match, so the Bruins will have to stay compact in the opening minutes to avoid selling teammates short with passes that get lost in the tall grass.
The Beavers have one win so far in conference play: a 2-0 home victory over Colorado. Their four losses include a 2-1 away loss to USC, a 1-0 defeat at home by Utah, and a pair of losses in northern California (3-0 against Stanford, 1-0 against Cal). Those losses pretty well define the Beavers; they are a clear, second-tier Pac-12 team.
On the other hand, the Bruins are an enigma. They didn't look strong against the Ducks but claimed a 1-0 victory. They played much better against a good Washington side but lost 2-1. They looked hopeless against a mediocre Washington State team and got thumped, 4-2. They then looked fantastic against the 15th-ranked Wildcats and grabbed a well-deserved 5-1 win. And then they lacked a cutting edge against the Sun Devils and earned a 1-1 draw. It's not easy to identify signs of progress from that set of performances and results.
Nevertheless, I think there has been progress. The defense looks less vulnerable than it did two weeks ago. Hailie Mace and Reema Bzeih have added solidity to the back line, and the return of the versatile Gabbi Miranda from injury gives Coach Cromwell options. When Taylor Smith returns to the pitch, the Bruins' attack will have greater pace and more bite.
With or without Smith today, the Bruins should have enough to get past the Beavers. And if the Bruins are going to qualify for a postseason berth, they'll need to come home with a win today.