Three wins. Three days. Third place.
Three was the magic number for the No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo team (10-1) this weekend as they competed in the Barbara Kalbus Invitational.
The Bruins began their weekend by picking up a 19-3 victory against the No. 16 UC San Diego Tritons (5-8) on Friday afternoon, defeating them 17-2 earlier in the season at the UC Santa Barbara Winter Invitational.
Although the team managed to put up 19 points against the Tritons, it was the defense that fueled the win.
The Tritons were consistently beaten down the pool by the Bruins as the speed and agility of UCLA were ultimately too much for UCSD to handle.
“A lot of our plays that were game changers were just us playing defense,” said senior attacker Kelsey O’Brien. “Crashing all the way back, covering for one another and getting out on the counter were all a part of that.”
Sophomore attacker Lizette Rozeboom led the scoring with 4 goals as she ended the first half with a strike. She carried her aggressiveness into the second half when she netted the first goal of the third period, a quarter in which she logged a hat trick.
Despite Friday’s victory, Saturday provided mixed results for the Bruins.
UCLA began its day with a 16-1 win in a rematch against No. 6 UC Irvine (9-6) that launched the Bruins into the semifinals. The result was identical to the Bruins’ home opener, where both teams last met.
With the finals only one game away, the Bruins were tasked with playing the No. 2 USC Trojans (18-0).
They found themselves in the hole from the get-go. In the first three minutes, USC built up a two-goal lead and would go on to build as much as a three-goal lead, with the Bruins coming back each time.
Freshman attacker Maddie Musselman brought the Bruins within one goal with just over a minute to go in the fourth, but UCLA could not do anything over the final 74 seconds and dropped its first game of the year.
Regardless of the result, there were some key takeaways from UCLA’s first loss of the season.
“I mean we always focus on having a solid defense,” said senior utility player Mackenzie Barr. “But I think I really saw a lot of people stepping in to shoot and scoring goals, which was nice.”
The loss set up a Sunday morning matchup for third place with the No. 4 California Golden Bears (11-1).
In dramatic fashion, UCLA defeated California 12-11, clinching the win when redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal scored the game-winning goal with 17 seconds left in the final frame.
Despite the exciting win, the Bruins know there is still work to do.
“We’ve got to be comfortable when the game gets slowed down,” said coach Brandon Brooks. “We gave up 10 plus goals the past two games, so there’s plenty to work on there as well.”
UCLA will look to continue their regular season campaign when it faces off against No. 17 San Jose State (6-10) on March 4.