For the second time in three weeks UCLA women’s water polo competed against the No. 4 team in the country.
And for the second time in three weeks, it was hardly a contest in the end.
The No. 3 Bruins (18-1, 4-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) cruised to victory over the freshly ranked No. 4 Arizona State Sun Devils (18-6, 2-3) 13-5, extending their winning streak to eight games.
“We knew we had to come out strong and take the lead in the beginning, which we did,” said redshirt senior center Alexa Tielmann. “We stuck to how we knew how to play the game and just kept with it the whole game.”
After the first quarter, UCLA was up only 2-1. Both teams displayed strong pressure defense; however, the Bruins opened the flood gates in the second quarter, scoring five goals.
Redshirt senior defender Alys Williams started of the scoring spree with a goal 15 seconds in. Freshman attacker Maddie Musselman and redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal found the net in the second minute, and Tielmann netted two goals in the quarter to cap the five goal second quarter.
In addition to two goals in the contest, Fattal recorded four steals and became UCLA’s all-time career steals leader. She now has 183 over her four-plus years under coach Brandon Brooks.
A total of six Bruins were able to find the net in Saturday’s performance. Tielmann led the way with four goals on the day, and Musselman followed with a hat trick.
One part of the game plan for the Bruins was to put pressure on the Sun Devils’ goalkeeper Mia Rycraw.
Rycraw was allowing 6.99 goals a game as of the opening sprint, in addition to averaging 9.9 saves per game.
“She’s a really good goalie and we put up 13 goals, which was really solid,” Brooks said. “We forced her to have to move laterally so that she couldn’t focus on just one player at a time.”
UCLA’s 33 total shots from many different players kept Rycraw off balance throughout the contest.
“We tested her a lot in the beginning,” Musselman said. “She had a couple great saves, but it didn’t stop us from shooting. We kind of wore her out a little bit, continuing to get shots from multiple shooters.”
Adding on to that, Arizona State as a team showed early signs of fatigue throughout the game.
According to Musselman, that comes with how the Bruins play and is what the team wants to have happen in its games.
“Some great strengths of our team is that we are very fast and have a lot of energy and depth and a lot of teams don’t have that,” Musselman said. “I thought we did a great job of continuously, whether you’re in the first group or second group or even the third group, just keep going at it.”
The Bruins have just two more regular season games left until the MPSF championships later this month, and those games are against the two best teams in the country.
Next week UCLA will travel up to NorCal to play No. 2 Stanford and in two weeks, UCLA will host crosstown rival and the No. 1 team in the country, USC.
Those rankings may change, however – hours after the conclusion of UCLA’s game, USC fell to Stanford 12-8, ending the Trojans’ NCAA women’s water polo record 52-game winning streak.