The Bruins were thought to be contenders at the start of the women’s water polo season ““ an upper-echelon team that separated itself from the field and had a shot to win an NCAA championship.

But after their latest game ““ a 5-2 loss to undefeated and top-ranked Stanford ““ the Bruins may simply be a part of the field, and the distance between them and the contenders is growing with each defeat.

The second-straight loss for the No. 4 Bruins (18-5, 1-3 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) leaves them 0-4 against the top three teams in the country ““ Stanford, No. 2 California and No. 3 USC.

In their first game in 14 days, the Bruins came out flat. The Cardinal (17-0, 3-0) used tough defense to go up 4-0 at the half, which was all but enough for the win.

UCLA registered a season-low two goals, both by senior defender Megan Burmeister. The two-goal mark was one lower than the Bruins’ previous low of three, set just one game earlier against Cal.

With only four games left before the MPSF Tournament, including a matchup against USC, crossing the divide and becoming a contender may be difficult, but it’s a position UCLA is familiar with.

Last season, the Bruins used a string of upsets to win the conference tournament as the No. 5-seeded team. The year before, UCLA made one of the program’s unlikeliest runs to an NCAA championship, winning as a No. 3 seed. But despite the unimpressive record, opponents likely won’t sleep on UCLA because of its past success. But that won’t work in the Bruins’ favor as they try to get back to the top.

Compiled by Ryan Menezes, Bruin Sports senior staff.