There were only 20 seconds left in Friday’s game, but it was just enough time for UCLA goalkeeper Sami Hill to send the ball on a golden, across-the-pool arch straight into Loyola Marymount’s cage.
“We practiced (the full-court shot) in practice and I never thought I’d actually shoot it but the goalie was way out and my coach said to shoot it and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll shoot it.’ I was crossing my fingers, I was like, ‘Please go in,’” said Hill, a redshirt sophomore.
With a unique ending to a game players described as high-energy, UCLA water polo set the tone for the rest of the weekend – caging the Lions 12-5 as well as racking up two other wins on Saturday against Cal-Baptist (12-7) and Division III Pomona-Pitzer (22-5).
LMU posed a challenge in drawing exclusions – UCLA players were excluded 12 times compared to LMU’s six. However, LMU only scored in three of its 12 power play 6-on-5 opportunities, whereas UCLA scored four in its six.
“(LMU is) always good at driving and earning ejections, so that’s something we really tried to focus on this week in practice,” Hill said. “We had to really work hard on our defense, so I think it really tested us. It was good.”
Coach Brandon Brooks described the game against Cal-Baptist as more aggressive and physical, but he also said that the CBU game lacked team effort and coordination from his squad.
Still, Brooks said he felt that, after working last week on attacking, the players did better than in their last loss against Stanford.
“We were more aggressive. We were more poised, more aggressive, more attacking. And if we had played with that mindset in the Stanford game, I would have been happier with us offensively,” Brooks said.
Freshman attacker Rachel Fattal, who scored five and six goals against LMU and CBU respectively, credited her success to the energy of the weekend.
“My team set me up for everything,” Fattal said. “Just being able to look at the person next to you and seeing that they have energy just gives everyone else more energy.”
Defining moments, like Hill’s full-court shot, only bolstered the energy of the weekend.
“I was on the bench, but I stood up and started screaming. Might’ve jumped into the air a little bit. Sami did a double fist-pump,” Fattal said. “It was awesome.”