The UCLA women’s water polo team emerged from this weekend’s Michigan Invitational undefeated, continuing a three-year trend of returning from the season’s first tournament without a loss.
The No. 3 Bruins played four games in 48 hours, including wins over No. 7 San Diego State University and host No. 11 Michigan on Saturday.
After losing several key players to graduation last year and gaining eight new freshmen, the team used this tournament to experiment with its new personnel.
“It wasn’t as much us trying to win but us trying to figure out our plays and work with each other and see how our team is balanced,” said redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sami Hill.
“So I thought it was a good learning trip for us.”
Despite Saturday’s big wins, UCLA kept first-half scores dangerously close all weekend long, a trend Hill said the team is working on reversing.
“We need to work on coming out strong and being a first-quarter team rather than being kicked in the butt before we need to play harder,” she said.
Coach Brandon Brooks attributed the wins to consistent scoring throughout the games, a deeper bench and the ability to learn quickly in the pool.
“I thought the girls did a good job of … being able to pick things up in the middle of the game and make adjustments,” Brooks said.
One skill the team had off the bat, however, was passing the ball to sophomore attacker Emily Donohoe, who scored 14 goals over the weekend with at least a hat trick in every game.
Donohoe said that although she physically put the ball in the cage herself, the goals were 100 percent a team effort. She credited the team’s strong bond outside of the pool with its ease of communication in games as well.
“I feel like this tournament let us know that there was no age difference. We are all the same; we were working towards a single goal,” Donohoe said.
“The freshmen made it easy, coming in with great personalities it’s hard not to like them.”