Sept. 8, 2008
LOS ANGELES - The UCLA men's water polo team opens its season playing a non-conference game at UC Irvine on Saturday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. Last fall, the Bruins won two of three games against the Anteaters, including a 12-11 sudden-victory overtime decision at home (Sept. 22, 2007).
Saturday, Sept. 13 - 7 p.m.
No. 4 UCLA (0-0) at No. 7 UC Irvine (0-0)
The Bruins welcome back 13 letterwinners in 2008, including All-America goalkeeper Chay Lapin and two honorable mention All-America selections, senior Krsto Sbutega and junior Scott Davidson. In all, UCLA's roster features three seniors, seven juniors, three sophomores and 12 freshmen (five expected to redshirt). The Bruins' other two seniors - Chris Allen and Russell Simpkins - will solidify a defense backed by Lapin, who has started 36 games the past two seasons in the cage.
UCLA and UC Irvine have played each other 12 times over the last four seasons, as the Bruins have compiled a 10-2 record in that span. Last Saturday, the two programs met for a six-quarter scrimmage at UCLA (no official results). One year ago, UCLA downed UC Irvine in sudden-victory overtime (Sept. 22) and knocked off the Anteaters in Irvine (Oct. 5). In both teams' third meeting, UC Irvine prevailed with a 10-9 win in sudden-victory overtime during the first round of the MPSF Tournament.
Following the season opener at UC Irvine, the Bruins dive into their season with four games at the NorCal Tournament (Sept. 20-21). UCLA will travel to the University of the Pacific for this season's tournament. Last year, the Bruins finished third at the NorCal Tournament, registering wins over Santa Clara, Pepperdine and Stanford. Following the NorCal Tournament, UCLA hosts back-to-back games against Long Beach State (Oct. 4, RBAC) and Loyola Marymount (Oct. 9).
UCLA returns its top two scorers from the 2007 squad. Junior Scott Davidson led the way with 49 goals and senior Krsto Sbutega followed with 35 goals last season. Davidson earned second-team All-MPSF honors after having scored at least one goal in each of UCLA's final 14 games (31 goals in that span). Sbutega finished second on the team in both points and steals (24) and ranked first among all Bruins in assists (25) as a junior.
Playing as a true freshman one year ago, sophomore Ben Hohl emerged as a legitimate scoring threat, totaling 27 goals on 61 attempts in all 28 games (making 27 starts). The Atherton, Calif., resident finished second on the team with 23 assists and netted 12 earned exclusions. Hohl led UCLA with three goals in his debut, the Bruins' season opener at Loyola Marymount, and finished his first season in Westwood having collected six multiple-goal efforts.
UCLA was selected fourth in the national preseason poll and the MPSF preseason coaches' poll. Two-time defending national champion California earned the top spot in the national poll, as USC, Stanford, UCLA and UC Irvine rounded out the top five spots. The MPSF coaches' poll listed USC as the favorite to win the conference title, followed by Stanford, California, UCLA, Pepperdine, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State, UC Irvine and Pacific.
IN THE CAGE
Junior goalkeeper Chay Lapin returns to the cage to lead UCLA's defense. Last season, Lapin registered a 6.90 goals against average, totaling 198 saves in 21 games (716:09 minutes). Lapin captured second-team All-MPSF honors and was named an All-America selection. The Long Beach, Calif., resident spent the spring and summer training with the U.S. Men's National Team prior to its silver medal-winning performance at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Junior Alex Lawrence and redshirt freshman Andrew Mesesan are expected to challenge for playing time in a backup role.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Bruins will host six home matches this season - four at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center and two at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. UCLA opens its home slate against Long Beach State (Oct. 4) at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. The Bruins host Loyola Marymount (Oct. 9) at Sunset Canyon two days before the annual SoCal Tournament. Other home matches include Stanford (Oct. 18, at RBAC), Brown (Oct. 19), UC Irvine (Nov. 7) and UC San Diego (Nov. 9).
AT THE HELM
In his 10th season as head coach of the men's water polo team, Adam Krikorian has tallied a 176-54 career record at UCLA. A four-year water polo letterwinner and 1997 UCLA graduate, Krikoriam has been a part of 14 national championships in 16 seasons with the water polo program. As head coach of the men's and women's programs, Krikorian has guided UCLA to 10 national titles (three men's, seven women's). Krikorian led the Bruins to three national championships as an assistant coach and one NCAA title as a player (1995).