The Bruins’ season wrapped up its year this weekend. But coach Brandon Brooks has plenty to be proud of and to look forward to.
With a 7-4 loss Saturday to No. 2 Stanford, the No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo team (26-5, 5-1) had to relinquish its hopes of making it to the championship game the following day.
“We just kept encouraging each other and kept telling each other to keep shooting, not getting down on ourselves, just moving on staying present in the game and knowing we needed to connect somewhere.” said sophomore attacker Devin Grab.
The Bruins took third place Sunday for the fifth time in tournament history, following a 5-4 victory over No. 4 Michigan. This is the 21st time that UCLA has competed in the NCAA Tournament. Its all-time record now stands at 55-10 with the most recent title having been in 2009.
Although it wasn’t the outcome that the Bruins had hoped for, they still finished the season off with a well-fought win over the Wolverines.
“I thought both teams played their hearts out and that’s what a third-place match should look like,” said Michigan coach Dr. Marcelo Leonardi.
Senior goalkeeper Alex Musselman made two crucial saves against the Wolverine offense’s final shots to ensure the third-place finish. The veteran goalie, along with fellow seniors India Forster and Charlotte Pratt, took leading roles during this season. Musselman finished the season with a total of 139 saves while Forster and Pratt posted 37 and 19 goals, respectively.
Kodi Hill, Alys Williams and Rachel Fattal will be rejoining the team after taking a year off to train and compete in this year’s Summer Olympics. Thus, Brooks will have plenty of seasoned players to fill his starting lineup.
“I think that next year’s team will all of a sudden be a very experienced team,” Brooks said. “We should have nine seniors.”
The Bruins signed one of the top recruiting classes, including the No. 1 recruit in Maddie Musselman. Musselman, the younger sister of Alex Musselman, won gold with Team USA at the 2015 Pan American Games and 2015 FINA World Championships. The former Corona Del Mar star is joined by five other high school standouts, adding depth to UCLA’s bench.
Along with the incoming Olympic talent, Brooks will be able to utilize the offensive power of Grab, who led the team in scoring during the regular season with 41 goals and 26 assists, and redshirt junior center Alexa Tielmann, who earned second-team All-MPSF honors and notched 34 goals.
With still one more season to go in her collegiate career, utility Mackenzie Barr was named to the NCAA All-Tournament First Team. The junior amassed a total of six goals, two assists, and seven steals during the weekend’s competition and finished off the year with a total of 40 goals. Barr is a finalist for the Peter J. Cutino Award, one of the most prestigious awards in collegiate water polo. Alumna Courtney Mathewson was the last Bruin to earn the Cutino award in 2008.
Additionally, younger players stepped up and played their own roles in shaping the team’s success.
Sophomore utility Alexis Angermund and freshman attacker Lizette Rozeboom both established their presences in the pool this weekend. Angermund scored a hat trick during Sunday’s game, and Rozeboom was selected to the All-Newcomer All-MPSF Team, notching four points against UC San Diego on Friday.
With senior goalkeeper Alex Musselman graduating this spring, freshman goalkeeper Carlee Kapana will take on a much larger role in the cage next year. Earning Newcomer of the Week honors earlier in the season, Kapana racked up a total of 27 saves for her performance at the UCSB Invitational. She came away with a .692 save percentage in her collegiate debut against Michigan and UC Santa Barbara.
Brooks may be losing three of his seniors, but he has plenty of potential for the future. With all of the talent and experience that it will have, next year’s squad seems to be nothing short of promising.