The Bruins return to the pool Saturday to play in the Triton Invitational, kicking off the defense of their recent national championship.
Starting attackers graduate student Nicholas Saveljic and senior Jake Cavano headline No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo’s roster heading into the first of three tournaments the Bruins will take part in this campaign. With a schedule that includes nonconference matchups across the state, the regular MPSF conference slate and a 2020-2021 NCAA championship rematch against USC, the Bruins will remain busy before the conference tournament in November.
UCLA begins the season ranked No. 2 in the MPSF Men's Water Polo Preseason Coaches' Poll, just behind USC who were ranked No. 1. The Bruins received two first place votes, while the Trojans also received two.
Coach Adam Wright, who heads up both the men’s and women’s teams in Westwood, will be in his 13th season leading the men’s squad. Last season, Wright was named the National Coach of the Year for the fourth time.
Personnel-wise, the Bruins return four All-Americans from last season. Saveljic was a part of the All American First Team, whilst Cavano, redshirt senior utility Evan Rosenfeld and junior goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi were named to the All American Second Team.
Saveljic is returning for his extra season granted due to COVID-19. Last season, the graduate student attacker scored 37 goals in 16 games, good enough to lead the MPSF in goals and be second overall in the NCAA. Thursday, it was announced that Saveljic won the 2020-21 Peter J. Cutino Award, an honor given out to the best men’s and women’s water polo players every year. He is the third-ever Bruin to receive the honor, with Garrett Danner and Sean Kern being the other two.
Cavano also returns up front after scoring 22 goals last season, one of which being the game-winner to overcome USC 7-6 in the national championship. Junior attacker Tommy Gruwell and sophomore attacker Makoto Kenney both will see action as well, scoring 19 and 18 goals, respectively, during the 2020-2021 regular season.
Utility player Felix Brozyna-Vilim returns to the Bruins after sitting out the 2020-2021 campaign. A First Team All-American in 2019, Brozyna-Vilim had 33 goals and led the team in exclusions with 73. Rosenfeld returns to the fold as well, scoring 12 goals last season and becoming vital to how the Bruins play under Wright.
Maurizi will start in goal for the Bruins after starting 12 of 14 contests last season, making 127 saves during regular season play.
UCLA’s main rivals to repeat will be USC once again, and the Bruins went 2-2 in four matches against the Trojans last spring. California and Stanford will also have shots to compete for titles as well, with the Bruins just slipping by the Cardinal in the NCAA semifinals 11-10.
UCLA will begin the 2021 campaign Saturday at the Triton Invitational at UC San Diego, starting with a game against Biola at 9:50 a.m. The Bruins will then play Whittier, Cal Baptist and UC Santa Barbara to round out the weekend.