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Friday, October 15, 2021

Men’s water polo seeks improvement in midst of undefeated run

JULI PEREZ / AGGIE

Aggies win 26th straight league game, recognize need to clean up mistakes

The UC Davis men’s water polo team collected its fourth consecutive victory Friday afternoon with a 14-8 triumph over the Air Force Academy at Schaal Aquatics Center. The Aggies have yet to falter in league games, holding a 4-0 mark against Western Water Polo Association opponents and a 13-5 record overall. In fact, the team hasn’t dropped a conference game since October 2014, a winning streak of 26 games.

Despite racking up another victory, Child and Meisel Families Director of Men’s Water Polo Daniel Leyson was particularly frustrated with his team’s effort on Friday. The Aggies outplayed their opponent for a good portion of the afternoon, but allowed them to stick around and stay within striking distance due to some avoidable mistakes.

“It’s just very sloppy on our part and an inability to play in a controlled fashion that allows us to increase the score,” Leyson said. “We kept making stupid mistakes allowing them to score and that’s a really dangerous way to live.”

Nonetheless, Leyson recognized how well his team can perform when playing up to its full potential. The ultimate goal for the team would be a return to the NCAA tournament, where the Aggies advanced to the quarterfinal round last season.

“Our expectation is that we play much better,” Leyson said. “We have a good group and if we can bring it together at the end, we’ll be very, very strong. Today just wasn’t the level to which we aspire in this program and the guys know that.”

Senior attacker Marcus Anderson opened the scoring for the Aggies in the first quarter, firing a shot to the top-right corner of the net to make it 1-0. Just over a minute later, UC Davis cashed in on a powerplay opportunity, Anderson passed to freshman center Nir Gross who took advantage of an open look in front of the net. UC Davis piled on several more shot attempts before the end of the quarter, but came up empty.

The Aggies started the second quarter with a flurry of shots on target, but couldn’t find the back of the net again. The team finally broke through with a pair of powerplay goals by Anderson, two minutes apart, to push the lead to 4-0.

With three minutes left before halftime, Air Force got on the board by scoring on a penalty shot. Just before the break, UC Davis grabbed a pair of turnovers and turned each one into a goal on the other end thanks to junior attacker Yurii Hanley. Air Force managed to nab an even-strength score in between, but the Aggies still finished the half with a 6-2 lead.

Air Force quickly rattled off three straight scores in the first four minutes of the third quarter, suddenly making it a very close game at 6-5. UC Davis kept its composure and responded with a trio of scores in the following two minutes, with two coming from sophomore attacker Jack Stafford and another from Anderson. The teams traded goals in the final two minutes of the quarter to make it a 10-6 game.

UC Davis put the game away with four more goals in the fourth quarter, including two from sophomore utility Kyle Reilly and a fifth from Anderson, and held off a late comeback attempt by Air Force to take the 14-8 victory.

The Aggies have five more regular season games on the docket, including three within the league. UC Davis will look to win those games and finish undefeated in conference for the fourth straight season.

 

Written by: Brendan Ogburn — sports@theaggie.org

 

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