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UCLA

Pool Kings

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By Wendy Soderburg '82

Published Apr 1, 2016 8:00 AM


The men's water polo team brought home UCLA's 113th NCAA title.

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Photo courtesy of UCLA Athletics.

Winning two national championships in a row? Sweet. Beating your crosstown rival in the title game both times? Sweeter still.

On December 6, the No. 1-ranked UCLA men’s water polo team defeated the No. 3-ranked USC Trojans, 10-7, to win the 2015 NCAA Championship. Not only was it the Bruins’ 33rd victory in a row, extending the second-longest winning streak in school history (the all-time record is 50, established from 1964–68), but it also gave UCLA its nation-leading 113th NCAA championship.

Remarkably, it was also the fourth time UCLA men’s water polo has won back-to-back championships, with the other titles coming in 1971–72, 1995–96 and 1999–2000.

“This year was different, because these guys didn’t lose a single game the whole season,” Head Coach Adam Wright ’01 says. “We don’t really talk about records, but there’s that thing that’s just kind of looming in the back of your head. It really weighs on you. So I think the guys did a great job in how they handled it. I was just really happy for them, because they worked so hard. It’s not easy to repeat anything.”

Wright stresses that what’s unique about the Bruins is that they don’t rely on one or two guys — they play as a team, and anyone can step up at a given moment. But the coach gives plenty of credit to the team’s defense, starting with junior Garrett Danner.

“He’s proven to be the best goalie in the country two years in a row,” Wright says. “Also, Ryder Roberts ended up being the NCAA Tournament MVP, but he was incredible for us all season long. Anthony Daboub, Danny McClintick, Chancellor Ramirez, Gordon Marshall — these guys logged serious, serious minutes. We also had new guys who really stepped up, like Alex Roelse and Max Irving. They took on whole new roles this year.”

Although the team went undefeated, it wasn’t easy. Roberts, a junior attacker, says, “This team found a way to win in the face of adversity. ... A lot of the time we were down and found a way to dig deep and do whatever it took to get it done.”

This was the second title for Roberts and goalie Danner. “Repeating definitely makes it a little more exciting, but I can’t say winning one was better than the other,” Danner says. “I feel lucky to be a part of both teams. I couldn’t ask for better teammates.”

For the first time ever, the NCAA Championships were held at UCLA, in Dirks Pool at the Spieker Aquatics Center. The atmosphere was incredible. “We had alumni dating back to 40 years ago; there were more than 120 alumni in the stands alone,” Wright says. “We probably had 1,500-plus people at the game. Our band was there, and it was a sellout. It was really special for us.”

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