At the Spieker Aquatics Center this weekend, women’s water polo fans will be treated to a battle of swagger versus motivation.
The No. 1 UCLA Bruins, angry after a close call against No. 10 San Jose State Spartans last weekend, will take on No. 5 Arizona State, a team that is riding high after upsetting No. 4 California last weekend.
This is likely to be one of the most pivotal games in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation this year.
The Bruins (14-1, 3-0 MPSF) could not break free from an inspired Spartan defense last weekend, without a lead for much of the game before scoring three unanswered goals in less than three minutes to send San Jose State home empty-handed.
The Bruins were relieved to come away with the win but were less than pleased with their preparation and execution.
“As the game went on, it just became more and more urgent for us to do something about it,” said senior utility KK Clark on Saturday.
“So I guess at the end of the day, we know we can pull something like that off, but our preparation wasn’t good enough and it’s definitely a learning experience.”
Hoping to be more well-prepared for its opponent this weekend, the team has made it a goal this week to improve their focus and intensity in practice.
“We have to come in hard at practice because we can’t just stroll on and think we can win,” said senior attacker Sarah Orozco. “That’s the lesson we have to learn from (Saturday).”
Dictating play against the Sun Devils (16-2, 2-0) this weekend will be a tall task for the Bruins.
In its last two games, Arizona State has avenged its only two losses of the season against No. 6 San Diego State and California, respectively.
Scoring three goals in last weekend’s game against Cal, Arizona State senior attacker Alicia Brightwell was named the MPSF Player of the Week for the third time this season.
Brightwell, an Australian native, and a host of other experienced players from the likes of Hungary, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany and China together run one of the most physical, potent offenses in the country.
But as it has shown all season, UCLA refuses to back down from a challenge and this weekend is no different.
The Bruins recognize the strength of the Sun Devils, although they are certainly more motivated than intimidated coming into Saturday’s matchup after letting an unsettling victory simmer in their minds for a week.
“ASU is a really tough opponent,” said coach Brandon Brooks.
“They’ve got a lot of talent and some experienced girls, so I expect that to be a battle. It’s going to be a really tough game and it’s going to be a huge statement for us to see how we respond.”