UCLA women’s water polo has never had a season where a freshman has finished as the team’s leading scorer.
That could change this year.
After the first seven games, freshman attacker Maddie Musselman leads with 19 of the team’s 112 goals. The Olympic gold medalist netted all of them in just 36 attempts, giving her a field goal percentage of 52.8.
“It just happens during the game,” Musselman said. “When I’m open, I’m open and it’s my role to score and finish. I’m always willing to make that extra pass and set my teammates up for success – it just happens to be my opportunity when I do score.”
Even though Musselman is just a freshman, coach Brandon Brooks said he has not been surprised by her impact on the team and the contributions she has made to the team’s success.
“I knew that coming into this season that (Musselman) is fast, long and has a great feel for the goal,” Brooks said. “What I’ve been most impressed with is what she does as a student of the game. She is always positive and has a great attitude as well.”
As a team, the No. 3 Bruins (7-0) have scored 112 times, matching the second-highest number of goals scored in the first seven games of a season in UCLA history.
Musselman said she believes the Bruins’ fast-paced offense is a key reason why they have put up those kinds of numbers.
“The way we play is very fast, which has helped produce a lot of goals,” Musselman said. “All of our goals have been from a variety of different players. We have a deep team with a lot of talent on the roster.”
Right behind Musselman in goals scored this season is redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal, who has 18 goals thus far.
Fattal led the team in goals in 2015, was second on the team with 46 goals in 2014 and scored 68 goals in her freshman season. She’s fourth on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list with 188 career goals, and has nothing but praise for Musselman.
“She’s an amazing player,” Fattal said. “She’s fast and has an amazing shot – that’s why she is our leading scorer. I am so glad that she decided to come here and be a Bruin with us.”
Fattal and Musselman’s first time playing with one another dates back to when they trained together on the women’s senior national team for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Despite only having been teammates for a year and a half, Fattal and Musselman have known each other for a long time. Both are from the Orange County area and Fattal was a roomate of former UCLA goalie Alex Musselman, Maddie’s older sister.
The relationship that Fattal and Musselman have built makes it easier for the two to be on the same page in the pool, according to Musselman; but it’s not unique to just the two Olympians – the entire team has similar chemistry, which shows when it’s on the attack.
The Bruins currently average 16 goals per game. No. 1 Stanford’s scoring average of 15.6 is slightly below UCLA’s, while No. 2 USC’s scoring average, at 18.5 goals per game, leads the nation.