The UCLA women’s water polo team played just its second home game of the season against UC Irvine under the lights of Spieker Aquatics Center on Friday. And while the bright lights added more intensity to the matchup between two top-10 teams, the Bruins were left mostly unfazed, earning a closely-contested 9-6 victory.
Coach Brandon Brooks said that the Bruins’ excitment in their second home game was higher than in their first one of the season, a non-conference rout of Cal Lutheran.
“I think that there was more excitement,” Brooks said. “And maybe even overexcitement in the first half.”
The Bruins started off with a quick two goals early in the first quarter, but the Anteaters responded, riding momentum from strong defensive play to a 4-4 tie at halftime. The early two-goal lead proved to be the UCLA’s largest of the game save for a score-sealing goal with 0:52 left in the fourth quarter that put the contest out of reach for UCI.
Brooks gave credit to his team for being able to stop, assess and make the necessary adjustments during Irvine’s big momentum swing toward the end of the first half.
“I think visibly we gave up goals and I don’t think we should have,” Brooks said. “And I think the girls did a really good job composing themselves and taking control of the situation.”
Senior attacker Gisselle Naranjo, who tied sophomore attacker Emily Donohoe and freshman attacker Rachel Fattal for the team-lead of two goals on the contest, agreed with Brooks that the team let in several unnecessary goals on Friday night, but attributed the Bruins’ second-half bounce-back to a productive halftime meeting.
“Even though it was close we kept our composure,” Naranjo said. “We had to correct our mistakes and capitalize on our advantages.”
Sophomore attacker Erica Beebe said the halftime meeting took the edge off of a high-pressure game and allowed the No. 3 Bruins (13-1) to turn the momentum in their favor in the final 16 minutes of play.
“We went to the wall and took a team breath together where we reminded each other it was going to be okay and we can do it,” Beebe said. “It helped us regroup and think about what we were going to do.”