With the addition of eight freshmen to the team, UCLA women’s water polo had a lot to prove at the beginning of the season.
After playing three ranked teams this past weekend and coming out of the Michigan Invitationalundefeated, the Bruins are pleased with their hot start.
Freshman attacker Rachel Fattal opened up the scoring in the first game of the season against SDSU and No. 3 UCLA (4-0) never trailed all weekend until its final game gainst Indiana.
The Bruins rallied from a 3-1 first period deficit to beat Indiana 8-4.
“It shows what our mentality is,” sophomore Emily Donohoe said. “We will never give up and we want to keep pushing ourselves until we get the results we want.”
This weekend, the Bruins have another tournament in Santa Barbara to prove that, once again, four games in 48 hours will not phase them.
“Now that we know how we all play together, I’m really excited to see (the way we play) once we are all in the best shape and getting challenged by some of the better teams,” Donohoe said. “I am excited to see us perform against them and the ultimate goal to defeat these teams and be the best.”
On Sunday, Donohoe was named Player of the Week by the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
In a matter of four games, Donohoe has already scored 14 goals and is closing in on her total of 15 goals from last season.
UCLA beat Michigan 12-3 on Saturday, with Donohoe contributing four goals – enough to win the game on her own.
Donohoe did not see it as an individual effort, attributing her many goals to the help of her teammates.
“They set up the plays and I just happened to finish it but that was really cool,” Donohoe said.
Donohoe said that heading into Ann Arbor, the Bruins knew that Michigan would bring a large crowd and the team needed to use it as an opportunity to learn how to play without being able to hear each other. Coach Brandon Brooks was proud of the way the women played despite the noise.
“I was very happy that my team responded by settling down and by being more composed offensively and defensively,” Brooks said. “Controlling the rest of the game and (keeping) the crowd out of it.”
Going into her first game with “freshman jitters,” Fattal was able to use those nerves to score the first goal of the season and continue on to a hat trick in her first game.
“Everyone has to have a little bit of nerves going into every game, that is how you know you are going to play well,” Fattal said. “If you’re not nervous, that’s when you should be scared.”
Brooks showed the trust he has for many of the team’s freshmen last weekend by playing most of them throughout the tournament. The freshmen upheld that trust by scoring a combined total of 17 goals over the weekend.
“It is very difficult to play a full game if your team is playing 8 people, 9 people and they are trying to keep up with the energy of 14 people,” Brooks said.