KK Clark’s UCLA career began when she opened her mailbox toward the end of her high school career.
Inside was a recruitment letter from the Bruins, three-time consecutive national champions.
Though there would be other suitors, the early interest from Westwood made an impression on Clark.
“UCLA, I think, was the first school I ever got a letter from,” Clark said. “It was a hand-written letter and I just felt so wanted. Other schools were in the mix, like Cal and USC, but for me, the water polo program at UCLA was so amazing.”
Looking back at the season statistics for women’s water polo, it is extremely difficult to find a box score in which KK Clark’s name does not appear.
The senior utility out of Atherton, Calif. was the team’s rock this season, serving as the team captain and scoring 58 goals in 27 games.
Although she would lead her team to the NCAA Tournament in each of her four seasons, no moment compares in her mind to winning a national championship as a freshman.
“There’s nothing else in the world that can give you that feeling,” Clark said about the title. “I wish I had known that was going to be my only one, but there are things I’m more proud of this year than I was on the team my freshman year ““ we just had a different result.”
One of those sources of pride was a strong sense of team that she and the team’s other seniors helped develop this season.
“Looking back on the season, even when we were really tired and weren’t necessarily ready for every practice, we all just encouraged each other,” rising junior utility Becca Dorst said. “I have such fond memories of even the stressful times, that all of it is a good memory.”
Clark was a force to be reckoned with in the pool this season, consistently showing off her accuracy by beating goalkeepers from long range on offense. Defensively, she used her length to make passing the ball to the center position ““ a means of scoring point-blank goals ““ a mere fantasy for most teams.
Upon earning a first-team All-NCAA Tournament selection in May, Clark was contacted by United States Olympic women’s water polo coach Adam Krikorian to train with the team until it departs for London in late July.
Following this venture, she will likely pursue opportunities to play professionally in Europe.
Regardless of what pool her future finds her in, the dominance and poise Clark displayed this season will surely be missed by the UCLA coaching staff who witnessed her development over the years.
“As a coach, you like your student athletes to mature and go through the whole process, and it’s been nice to see KK finish up her last year on such a positive note. She’s had so much growth as a person and as a player,” coach Brandon Brooks said.
“It’s been an honor.”