On Saturday night, Spieker Aquatics Center went from being just a venue for swim meets and water polo games to a place of familiarity. Close friends and family members reunited as they caught up after not seeing each other since the last water polo season.
Moms made treat bags for the girls after the game and the girls seemed calm and comfortable as they warmed up and called each other nicknames during roll call.
This sense of familiarity and comfort is one that comes from the feeling of being around family and a sense of home. That’s exactly the feeling UCLA women’s water polo had as the team beat the Cal Baptist Lancers 11-5 in its home opener.
“It’s always great playing at home and even better when we get a win at home,” said senior attacker Hannah Sebenaler. “When we play (in Spieker), it’s not just about having the home crowd advantage, it’s more about having pride and defending our home and where we are from.”
Sebenaler and teammate senior utility KK Clark led UCLA with three goals each.
The Bruins took an early lead and by halftime were up 6-1. Senior goalkeeper Caitlin Dement had 10 saves during the game to bolster the lead.
Unfortunately, the strong defense of the Bruins was not able to maintain itself through the fourth quarter. The Bruins gave up three goals in the final quarter allowing the Lancers to bring the score up from 11-2 to 11-5.
“In the fourth quarter we lost sight of the shooter a little bit,” said coach Brandon Brooks. “We began to lose sight of who had the ball and the mistakes in our defense allowed for their offense to fill in those gaps and make the necessary plays for them to score goals.”
Brooks made two full team substitutions during the game, allowing for younger members of the team to get playing time and experience.
“I wanted to try out some different lineups and this game was the perfect opportunity for that,” Brooks said. “We were able to explore the depth of our team a little bit more and that will only help us as we continue the season.”