When the UCLA women’s water polo team finishes its game against Cal Baptist on Saturday, its only late-night travel to return home will be on foot or on the occasional Vespa.
After spending the first seven games of their season on the road, the No. 3 Bruins (6-1) finally have the luxury of playing in front of their home fans under the lights of the Spieker Aquatics Center.
“It’s really exciting, just being able to have a home crowd,” said senior utility KK Clark. “It’s definitely a pride that we hold with having home games in that pool, and hopefully we’ll be able to distinguish that with a good game and hopefully a win.”
Cal Baptist (1-4) is the first unranked opponent UCLA will face this season, but the team continues to perfect its game in practice, not only for this weekend’s competition but also for the grueling weeks ahead.
“We’re going to take this opportunity to condition hard this week and kind of get back in the fitness aspect of things so that the foundation will be there over the next few weeks when we’re training,” said coach Brandon Brooks. “There’s a lot of things we can improve on for sure, so we’re trying to continue to put more pieces together.”
Finishing 3-1 and taking second place at the Stanford Invitational last weekend, the Bruins were pleased with their performance but know progress needs to be made before Mountain Pacific Sports Federation games begin.
“Our defenses have grown, our offensive play has slowed down and we’re more patient, and we can let things play out, but we’ve got a lot more work to do so we’re never going to be satisfied,” said sophomore utility Becca Dorst. “Every team’s going to be trying to get to their best over the next couple weeks, but as long as we progress the most, that’s what we’re really looking forward to.”
A promising trait the team has shown so far has been its ability to close games late and score goals under pressure.
UCLA outscored No. 11 Michigan 7-0 in the second half of a Sunday morning game and scored eventual game-winning goals in the fourth quarter against both No. 4 California (11-2) and No. 7 Hawai’i (2-3) on Saturday.
UCLA will also be seeing a familiar face on Saturday in the form of Cal Baptist assistant coach Priscilla Orozco, who was UCLA’s leading scorer last season with 58 goals and is the older sister of senior attacker Sarah Orozco.
“(Priscilla) was one of our star players last year, and I played with her for three years,” Clark said. “So it’s going to be really funny seeing her across the pool.”
The team understands the importance of refining specific defenses and working on 6-on-5 situations but also recognizes the inherent advantages of being able to once again play at home.
“It’s always good to play at home and to defend your home pool and UCLA’s campus,” Brooks said.
“It’s nice to not have to travel, it’s nice to sleep in your own bed and it’s nice to have your family come to town, so we’re definitely going to look forward to this week.”