Last weekend, the UCLA women’s water polo team emerged from an embarrassing loss to No. 1 Stanford with a number of concerns.
Sunday, the No. 2-seeded Bruins nipped those concerns in the bud, heading up to Palo Alto and scoring eight goals in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament title game against the same physical Cardinal team en route to a thrilling 8-7 overtime win.
The win earned UCLA an automatic trip, its eighth consecutive, to the NCAA Tournament in San Diego a week from Friday.
After a humbling 8-1 defeat put a damper on their Senior Day just a week ago, the Bruins were able to regroup in practice this week and charge through the competition at the Avery Aquatic Center, culminating in their win against the Cardinal in the title match.
UCLA made quick work of No. 7-seeded San Diego State in Friday’s quarterfinal round behind three goals from junior utility Emily Greenwood.
The encouraging win brought the Bruins (21-3) much-needed momentum in Saturday’s semifinal matchup against No. 3-seeded USC (20-5).
In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, with the score tied at three goals apiece, senior attacker Hannah Sebenaler found the back of the net on a lob shot from 7 meters away to send the Bruins to the finals.
Sunday by no means lacked heroics, either.
UCLA found itself trailing Stanford (23-2) 7-6 in the fourth quarter until a 2-meter goal by sophomore Becca Dorst knotted things up with 2:42 to play.
Senior utility KK Clark scored the game winner with 46 seconds left in the first of two overtime periods.
The real story of the weekend for the Bruins was their impressive defensive effort.
A week removed from being physically outmatched by Stanford, the team held its ground at the 2-meter position, forcing the high-octane Cardinal offense to slow down its game plan.
Leading the defense through crunch time all weekend was senior goalkeeper Caitlin Dement, who deflected several key shots at point-blank range on Sunday en route to 12 saves.
Compiled by Andrew Erickson, Bruin Sports contributor.