Adam Wright is entering his fourth season as coach of his alma mater UCLA, where he’s notched two national runner-up finishes. As a collegiate player for the Bruins, he was a member of back-to-back championship squads in 1999 and 2000. Wright has also been a fixture on the U.S. national team and the past three Olympic squads, bagging a silver medal in Beijing in 2008.
In 2011, UCLA’s cross-town rivalry determined the two most important championships. UCLA won the MPSF Tournament by defeating USC 10-9. The thrill of victory would be followed by heartbreak the following week as USC knocked off the Bruins 7-4 to win the NCAA title. These two schools continue to fight for the top spot, as evidenced by USC’s 7-6 NorCal Championship victory against UCLA on Sunday.
UCLA finished second at NorCals, losing to USC in the title game. Can you give us insight into that game?
Wright: It showed us a lot of weaknesses, especially in the finals. We got home and watched videos and saw that we gave up a lot of easy goals. We cannot spot the best team in the country five goals and expect to win. We need to be better fundamentally on defense so that we give our goalie a chance.
Your goalie Matt Rapacz registered double digit saves against USC at NorCals. How has he grown over the years?
Wright: Matt has had a long path to his senior year. He had injuries and also had to grow up. I am really proud of how he has matured. Matt became a leader last year and was great all offseason. He is a critical piece, as we will make mistakes and he can correct those mistakes. We did not do a good job for him in the NorCal finals. He made some incredible saves – that game could have been worse.
Josh Samuels and Griffin White are both returning All-Americans. What makes them assets for your squad?
Wright: They have a lot of experience. I expect a lot of both guys and they have to be held to a higher standard. Josh has matured tremendously as he has had a wide range of ups and downs. He can be a leader of this team. Griffin was very consistent last year. He is battling some injuries right now and we need him to regroup. We need Griffin to be better than he was last year. Both he and Josh need to be significantly better. If we want to be the best, they both have to step up.
You recently competed in your third Olympics in London. Will you be continuing on as a player or was London the last time you’ll compete on the international stage?
Wright: You never know. These questions take a lot of thought. It is nice to be back at UCLA but I have not had a lot of time to think about it. When the season finishes up, I’ll think about what I am going to do.