This post was updated Jan. 17 at 12.38 a.m.
It’s official – after months of the long offseason, UCLA women’s water polo is back to sanctioned competition.
In the first weekend of play, the No. 3 Bruins (2-0) claimed two official victories against No. 14 San Jose State and No. 17 UC Davis.
“We’ve been playing each other for so long and scrimmaging against each other, it’s nice to join forces with everyone,” said redshirt senior defender Alys Williams.
The Bruins rolled over the Spartans and the Aggies 20-1 and 15-1 respectively. But the biggest games of the weekend weren’t games at all – not officially anyway.
Friday morning, national preseason top-25 had the Stanford Cardinal (2-0) on top, just one point ahead of USC. UCLA follows in third, and California in a distant fourth.
The Bruins scrimmaged against both northern California programs, with an exhibition against the No. 1 Cardinal early Sunday morning. Redshirt senior attacker Kodi Hill said it was a unique opportunity to play some of the top teams this early in the season.
“I feel like normally we don’t play until we’re about a month in,” Hill said. “It’s a good benchmark to see where we are – we don’t get many opportunities to play teams in the fall.”
Hill and coach Brandon Brooks said the team played and matched up well against Stanford, but there are clear signs for them on what needs to be addressed by the time the team travels to Palo Alto in April.
Stanford was eight for 11 on its power plays, converting at 72 percent, according to Brooks. The Bruins pitted a number of different rotations against the Cardinal, and for Williams, part of that man-down defensive statistic came down to communication, which Hill echoed.
“It’s hard, especially for some of the younger girls – you feel like it’s not your place to be saying things, to be communicating as loudly and as frequently as you need,” Hill said. “Every game is an opportunity to work on communication and that’s something that we make really important.”
The combined 35-2 score is the largest margin of victory for UCLA in its first two games of the season since 2006, when it outscored Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Northridge 42-6.
Freshman attacker Maddie Musselman led the Bruins with six goals, while Hill, redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal and junior attacker Devin Grab followed with five each. In the first game against SJSU, Musselman and Fattal combined for nine goals.
In addition, two goals allowed over the first two games is the best defensive start to UCLA’s season since 2005, in which the Bruins, under women’s senior national team coach Adam Krikorian, gave up two goals to Indiana and held Colorado State scoreless.
It was the best start numbers-wise for Brooks in his career at the helm of the program.
But that aside, there’s a long season to go. He’s more focused on the team’s potential.