Junior center defender Nico Tierney squares up for a shot at the goal at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool on Oct. 2. Pepperdine fell 10-8 to UCLA in a close battle. Photos by Brandon Rubsamen
No. 12 Men’s Water Polo battled No. 2 UCLA at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool on Oct. 2, ultimately losing 10-8. This was the Waves first outing after a 4-0 showing at the Gary Troyer Tournament, which wrapped up almost 24 hours before the UCLA matchup.
Six different Waves each scored a goal, including a hat-trick notched by freshman attacker Adam Csapo. Freshman goalkeeper Zach Cwiertnia anchored the defense with seven saves, though it was the team as a whole that caused UCLA to net only 10 goals, despite the loss.
“The guys came out today and played with a lot of pride and defense, and that’s really the bottom line of how we have to play for the rest of the season,” Head Coach Terry Schroeder said.
Pepperdine set the tone for the match, focusing on team defense and holding UCLA to only three first-half goals. But, the Waves themselves struggled offensively outside of a 3-0 run in the first quarter.
After an early goal by UCLA’s graduate attacker Jake Cavano, the Waves answered back strongly. On the following play, freshman attacker Sandor Gal knotted the game at one goal a piece. Gal followed his scoring effort with an assist to Csapo who put the Waves up with 3:47 left to go in the first quarter. Pepperdine’s run was finally capped off by a penalty shot by junior center defender Nico Tierney to make the score 3-1.
The game began to get chippy, as Schroeder would receive a behavioral yellow card with 0:53 left in the first quarter. Pepperdine would not be faltered by the misstep, as they scored again to close the starting period with a score of 3-2.
Pepperdine kept their lead throughout the remainder of the first half, going into the break with the score at 5-3. Cwiertnia highlighted the Waves’s defensive effort, which forced UCLA to commit eight turnovers in the first half.
“We talked about defense before the game, and we all said that this defense needs to be a ‘ride or die’ of the game, and it totally was in the first half,” Cwiertnia said.
The match heated up in the third quarter — catalyzed by a yellow card issued to Pepperdine’s bench two minutes into the second half. UCLA capitalized on the chaos with two more goals, only for Pepperdine senior center Austin Smit to respond with a goal of his own.
UCLA scored again to make the score 6-6, but a yellow-red card was charged toward Head Coach Adam Wright, shifting the momentum in Pepperdine’s direction. Graduate attacker Dennis Blyashov and Csapo exploited the mental blunder with two more goals to give Pepperdine an 8-6 lead.
As the clock hit zero to close the third quarter, UCLA scored another goal, regaining the momentum. Pepperdine finished the quarter leading 8-7, but UCLA took over in the fourth quarter.
“I think that’s when we need to step up again, because we were the ones controlling the game,” Csapo said. “We were up all game, so I think we just need to believe that we can win big games like this.”
UCLA tied the game up with five minutes left in the match, and regained the lead two minutes later. Pepperdine fought hard to even the score again, but a UCLA dagger with 1:45 on the clock made it a two-possession game and out of reach for the Waves.
Despite the loss, Pepperdine is still able to take away from the game and learn from it, specifically noting defense as something the Waves did well and can build upon.
“Defense is the most crucial part of the game and I think we did a really good job on defense in the first half,” Csapo said. “I don’t think we did bad in the second half, I think UCLA just stepped up.
Pepperdine will look to bounce back from the loss versus San Jose State in Malibu on Oct. 9.
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