Sept. 4, 2001
Two-time defending NCAA champion UCLA (0-0) opens its 2001 men's water polo season by hosting MPSF nemesis UC Irvine (0-0) at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center this Saturday at noon. The match between the Bruins and Anteaters will not count in the conference standings, and is the first of two meetings this year between the teams.
Last Weekend: The Bruins began the season by playing at the Wasko Scrimmage Tournament at Pepperdine last Saturday. The Bruins battled UCSB, UC San Diego and Pepperdine in three-period scrimmages.
This Week's Opponent: UCI leads the all-time series 56-46-1, including two wins over UCLA last season (Sept. 9, 9-7 in OT, Nov. 12, 9-8). Irvine finished 20-7 last year and entered the conference tournament as the top seed, but the Anteaters were surprised by Cal in the semifinals. Coach Ted Newland enters his 36th season with 663 career victories, the most in collegiate water polo history. Like UCLA, UC Irvine lost six starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's squad. Senior utility players John Dorfi and Chris Kirchwehm will led the Anteater attack, while junior transfer Doug Finfrock will likely start in goal.
UCLA Season Outlook: Head Coach Adam Krikorian begins his first season alone at the helm of the men's team. While the 2000 Bruins were loaded with six senior starters in the field (accounting for 183 of the team's 272 goals), the 2001 squad is relatively inexperienced. In all, only 10 of 19 letterwinners return from the side that routed UC San Diego 11-2 in last year's NCAA title game.
The bulk of the experience is on the defensive side of the pool. First-team All-American Brandon Brooks (Jr., Honolulu, HI/Punahou), arguably the nation's best collegiate goalkeeper (4.80 goals-against average in 2000), is on pace to break all of UCLA's netminder records. Matt Flesher (Jr., Diamond Bar, CA/Brea Olinda) will be the primary two-meter defender. Flesher is also a scoring threat from outside, piling up 32 goals last season as a part-time starter.
The greatest fight for playing time comes in the middle of the pool. Returning drivers Jon Puffer (Sr., El Segundo/El Segundo HS), Jeff Pflueger (Sr., Santa Ana/Foothill HS), and Albert Garcia (So., Long Beach/Wilson HS) combined for just 33 goals as reserves a year ago. Their ascension to the starting lineup will be contested by freshman phenoms Brett Ormsby (El Cajon/Valhalla HS) and Josh Hewko (San Clemente/San Clemene HS)
Preseason Ranking: The first United States Water Polo National Collegiate Division I poll of the season will be released Wednesday, Sept. 5. The Bruins' 2001 schedule includes all but one of the top 10 teams from last season's final national poll.