Thursday, September 21

Water polo finishes No. 3 in conference

The No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo team has attempted to defeat conference rival No. 2 Stanford three times this season. The Bruins failed yet again this Saturday as their bid for a third straight Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament title ended with a semifinal loss to the Cardinal, 11-10 in two overtimes.

Despite the defeat, the Bruins (22-6) rebounded the next day to defeat No. 4 California 8-7, finishing the weekend with a third-place finish. The Bruins are now all but guaranteed to receive one of three at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, and will await today’s official announcement of the eight-team field.

UCLA opened the tournament Friday against host No. 6 Hawai’i and held them off 8-7. Sophomore driver Priscilla Orozco led the Bruins with four goals, while senior driver Katie Rulon added a hat trick.

The Bruins had a back and forth match with the Cardinal, though UCLA retained the upper hand at halftime with a 5-4 lead. The Bruins saw three more leads disappear as Stanford scored with 2:27 remaining, sending the game into extra time.

After a scoreless stretch of six minutes through the overtime periods, Stanford found the back of the net. The Cardinal held off a flurry of UCLA attempts in the last 120 seconds to take the victory.

“It was a pretty entertaining game,” coach Adam Krikorian said. “It was tight the whole way. We had leads going a couple times, but we let them squander away. Stanford is a deep and talented team, but I wish we could have done a better job defensively. Ten goals (in regulation) are a little bit too much for our liking.”

Senior attacker Tanya Gandy led the Bruins with four goals, and senior attacker Anne Belden and Rulon hit two each.

On Sunday, the Bruins beat the Cal Golden Bears to take the final spot on the podium. After the teams were tied at halftime, UCLA jumped to a 7-6 lead at the end of the third quarter. Although Cal rallied to tie it up with around three minutes to go, Gandy answered by netting one with 1:37 left of the game.

“We didn’t play all that well,” Krikorian said. “I think we were worn-out from the night before. Cal played one of their better games. Ultimately a win is a win ““ nice to finish the tournament with a win.”

Krikorian said he’s exceedingly confident about the Bruins’ chances of making the NCAA field, in which the four-time defending champions would have another chance to defeat Stanford and top-ranked USC.

“I’m proud of the way the girls fought,” Krikorian said. “I think we’re getting a little bit closer. The hardest part is getting over the last step, to win that next game. We’ll get a chance to do that in two weekends.”

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