Coming off of strong performances against ranked opponents in the first invitational of the season, UCLA women’s water polo looks to continue its hot start at the UCSB Winter Invitational this weekend.
In their first two official games, the No. 3 Bruins (2-0) totaled 35 goals as they took down No. 16 San Jose State and No. 18 UC Davis, but it was the defense that defined the weekend.
Coach Brandon Brooks’ team allowed just two goals. The last time the Bruins allowed two goals over the first two games was at the start of the 2005 national championship campaign.
“We tend to pride ourselves on defense first,” said junior attacker Devin Grab. “We went into these games really trying to get stops before we get goals. Once you play good defense, good offense seems to go along with that.”
UCLA will be squaring off against four top-25 teams at the UCSB Winter Invitational this weekend.
Sunday, it will go up against No. 10 Pacific and No. 15 Indiana University. The Tigers (2-1) are coming off of a 12-11 victory over the Canadian national team after suffering a 7-15 loss to No. 4 California, while the UCSB Winter Invitational will be the Hoosiers’ first invitational of their season.
“It’s early in the season and every game we go into we want to get better,” said senior utility Mackenzie Barr. “We’re lucky to be playing such good opponents early on. Hopefully we can come out of this weekend with the same results as last.”
Sunday, the team jumps right back into competition against No. 8 Michigan and No. 11 UC San Diego, making UCLA’s first six games matches against ranked teams within the top 18.
“It should be a really good test for us,” Brooks said. “We have the depth to get through (the schedule) and are able to combine talent and experience with hard work and coordination. Right now it’s about learning what we’re good at and what we need to work on. It might not be the best scheduling on my part, but we’re trying to test ourselves.”
The strategies for six-on-five offense and five-on-six defense were the biggest takeaways from last weekend and is something that the team wants to work on during these next games, according to Grab.
“Once we improve on our five-on-six (defense) and put in our six-on-five shots (on offense), our chemistry as a team will keep growing,” Grab said. “We have so much talent on this team so if we can focus on getting the details down we’re going to be really successful continuing forward.”
That talent will be going against top opponents in Santa Barbara, but the goal for UCLA this early is still to keep growing and putting the pieces together, and there are good chances to do that this weekend.
“It’s really important to us that we don’t go out and waste our chance to get better during a game,” Barr said. “We just take it one game at a time really enjoying the process of learning and growing every game.”