The rematch of one of UCLA women’s water polo’s closest games of the year finished anything but like the first.
On Saturday, No. 3 UCLA (14-1, 3-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) defeated No. 4 California (13-4, 1-1) for the second time this season, by a much larger margin of 10-4.
“The difference between this game and last time was we really focused on making the extra passes and not rushing,” said sophomore defender Rachel Whitelegge. “Being quick but not hurrying with our moves, and always making sure we were all on the same page as opposed to trying to rush through plays and movements.”
Both teams were held to season lows in goals scored in the first half – at the half it was 3-2 UCLA – but the Bruins had a massive offensive push in the second half that put the game far out of reach.
After senior utility Mackenzie Barr and Cal senior driver Stephanie Mutafyan exchanged goals to start the third quarter, redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal converted a five-meter penalty shot that sparked what ended up being a four-goal streak that put the Bruins up 8-3.
“Our offense definitely lacked in the first half,” Fattal said. “But I think no matter what, one of the goals of our team is to play solid defense and our offense will come out of that and that happened today.”
The penalty officially tied Fattal for third place on UCLA’s all-time career goals record board. Her second of an eventual team-high four goals came four seconds into the fourth quarter, putting Fattal in sole possession of third place.
The Bruins made several adjustments on defense from the teams’ first meeting, and particularly keyed in on Cal’s driver Dora Antal, the third leading scorer in the conference.
According to sophomore goalie Carlee Kapana, the team’s aim was to try and shut her down early, and the Bruins managed to do just that. Antal exited the game scoreless after getting her third exclusion with under 15 seconds to go in the third quarter.
“I thought we played solid individual and team defense,” said coach Brandon Brooks. “That’s really the key. Someone that’s as good as she is, you’re not going to be able to guard her all the time with one player, so I thought we did a good job as a team.”
Ten years ago
At halftime, UCLA honored the 2007 women’s water polo team which won the school’s 100th national championship. In attendance was two-time Olympic Gold medalist Courtney Mathewson, who played alongside Fattal and freshman attacker Maddie Musselman in Rio de Janeiro this past summer, and UCLA’s all-time leading scorer Kelly Rulon.
Kelly Rulon’s sister Katie Rulon also played on the 2007 team and was third on the all-time scoring list until today – when Fattal netted her 201st, 202nd, 203rd and 204th career goals to pass her – but was not in attendance.