The Bruins took care of their first four adversaries, starting their campaign as the reigning national champions undefeated.
In games versus Biola, Whittier, Cal Baptist and UC Santa Barbara across the weekend, No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (4-0) outscored its Triton Invitational opponents 62-25 overall. Freshman attacker Chase Dodd led the Bruins scoring, putting away eight goals while playing in all four games. Freshman center Eli Liechty and redshirt senior utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim both played in all four games as well, leading the effort versus Whittier.
The first two matches Saturday, with UCLA facing down Biola and Whittier, were both one-sided affairs.
To start the season 1-0, UCLA defeated Biola 21-2 in the Eagles’ first match in program history after establishing the program just ahead of the 2021 season.
Sophomore attacker Tanner Pulice and redshirt sophomore attacker Jack Larsen both tallied three goals each. Notably, senior attacker and All-American Second Team member Jake Cavano also found the back of the net, starting his scoring nice and early in the season.
In the later game Saturday, similarly to Biola, Whittier also provided little competition to UCLA.
The Poets scored one goal in all three of the final periods, but those goals meant very little compared to the Bruins’ output in their 16-3 victory. Liechty scored four goals and Brozyna-Vilim had a hat trick for himself. Within the first two contests, the first two of his collegiate career, Liechty scored six goals.
Cal Baptist and UC Santa Barbara provided closer matchups for UCLA, but neither could match the Bruins as they picked up their third and fourth victories of the season.
Last facing off against Cal Baptist in the 2020 NCAA Tournament, Sunday’s contest was closer in scoreline than said national quarterfinal match. The Bruins defeated the No. 14 Lancers 10-8 this time around.
Going into halftime, UCLA was leading 4-1 following goals from sophomore attacker Ethan Shipman, Dodd, redshirt senior Evan Rosenfeld and junior defender Cameron Reagan. Dodd scored two goals in the match, leading all Bruins players in scoring. Taking a 10-4 lead during the fourth quarter, the Bruins took their foot off the pedal, conceding four goals to end the ranked matchup.
No. 6 UC Santa Barbara played UCLA late Sunday afternoon after also winning all three of its previous games in San Diego on the weekend. The Bruins’ neighbors to the west dropped their first match of the season in the 14-12 defeat while UCLA improved to 4-0.
Sophomore goalkeeper Garret Griggs made eight saves that helped the Bruins stave off the upset and a big day from the Gauchos’ top attacker. Sawyer Rhodes scored six goals, keeping things close and carrying his side against the Bruins. The Bruins trailed 7-6 at halftime and headed into the fourth quarter down 11-10.
Dodd won the game for the Bruins, tying things up at 12-12 with 2:54 remaining and scoring the game-winning goal less than a minute later. The Bruins hadn’t held a lead all afternoon prior to Dodd’s go-ahead score.
The freshman’s performance came with graduate student attacker and 2020 National Player of the Year Nicolas Saveljic out, as he did not appear in the pool all weekend. 18 Bruins got playing time, with coach Adam Wright playing around with multiple lineups and pairings to open things up this season.
Undefeated UCLA will return to play against No. 13 UC Irvine at home Friday at 5 p.m. The Anteaters started their season 2-0 after wins versus Chapman and Redlands.