A loss to USC, a loss on Senior Day and a loss in the last conference game before the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament would each be reason for frustration from the women’s water polo team.
On Friday, the No. 4 Bruins combined all three.
After suffering an 11-6 loss at the hands of the No. 2 Trojans, team members tried to focus on where there is room for improvement – a vital mindset as the postseason approaches.
“Every game opportunity is an opportunity to learn. This game, when it really comes down to it, is just a game, a step stool to MPSF. We’re just gaining all the tools,” said senior defender Natasha Schulman.
Coach Brandon Brooks said the problem in this game was that, while UCLA played “mostly correct,” the Trojans capitalized on the Bruins falling slightly out of position or making small mistakes.
Redshirt sophomore goalie Sami Hill agreed that lack of preparation was not the issue in this loss. Hill, who had eight saves in the game, had a front row seat as the Bruins struggled to convert their tailored defensive strategies to game time situations.
“We prepared so well. We studied their game plan, and we knew what was going to happen,” Hill said. “I think their execution was just really good, and our lapses in defense really showed.”
UCLA started off strong, allowing USC to maintain no more than a one-point lead in the first and second quarters, but by the third quarter, momentum had shifted in the Trojans’ favor.
“I felt like we gave up some bad goals, and it led to us changing our demeanor. We made a few mistakes and it kind of got us out of rhythm and we never really got back into it,” Brooks said.
This lack of rhythm led to UCLA scoring half as many goals in the second half as in the first half. USC scored more than a third of its total points in the third quarter alone.
“We had some missed opportunities, and we got down on ourselves, and when you start thinking about the opportunity that you missed and not about defense, that’s when slipups happen,” Schulman said. “We lost it a little bit and they kept theirs, where they got a few quick good goals, and we didn’t, and that set the tone for the rest of the game.”
While the Bruins showed their frustration during the game, they know their chance for redemption is fast approaching, as the Trojans are perennial contenders for both the MPSF crown and the national title.
Next time, team members said, they’ll be even more prepared.
“It sucks to lose, but we learned a lot from that game,” Schulman said. “And we’re going to learn from our mistakes and show up at MPSF ready to play.”