UCLA women’s water polo hadn’t trailed to a top-three team in more than nine quarters.
That changed Sunday – for a grand total of two minutes and 23 seconds.
From there on, the No. 1 Bruins (22-1, 6-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) held the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (20-3, 5-1) scoreless for the rest of the game, and claimed their 11th MPSF championship.
“We got comfortable with being uncomfortable and how tired we were, and we played really good team defense,” said coach Brandon Brooks. “We did a good job helping back, participating, getting some steals, which sure made it difficult to score.”
Besides keeping the Cardinal off the board in the second half, UCLA also recorded 13 steals.
Those steals came in a variety of situations, but many came on Stanford power plays. UCLA finished the game with seven total exclusions, and still managed to hold Stanford to one-for-seven while down a player.
UCLA redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal got the scoring going when she converted a shot from up close. In response, Stanford tied the game to make it 1-1 with 1:05 left in the first period.
Just 22 seconds later, the Bruins’ leading scorer, freshman attacker Maddie Musselman, scored to give her side a 2-1 lead heading into the second quarter.
Although Musselman only scored once, she made her presence felt on the defensive end, accumulating four total steals while pestering the Cardinal offense.
Fifty-four seconds into the second quarter, the Cardinal tied up the game 2-2.
Then, with 4:47 until halftime, Stanford gained a 3-2 lead with what would be its last goal of the game. The rest was all UCLA.
Coming out of a timeout, Fattal struck again to tie the game with 2:24 left in the second period.
At the half, the Bruins made several adjustments.
“In the five minutes during halftime, we changed a lot of things,” said redshirt senior defender Alys Williams. “We made sure to keep pressing, playing physical and making things difficult for them.”
Fattal, with 4:06 left in the third quarter, completed her hat trick, giving the Bruins a 4-3 lead.
The Bruins went into the final frame with a 5-3 lead after redshirt senior center Alexa Tielmann scored off an assist from Fattal, and in the final quarter, UCLA withstood a barrage of shot attempts from Stanford while logging another score to close out the 6-3 win.
Sophomore goalkeeper Carlee Kapana had four saves in the final frame, stopping a Cardinal power play in the process, and according to Fattal, her performance had a huge impact on the game.
“It’s very nice to be reassured that my goalie is behind me,” Fattal said. “If I miss my block, she’s right there.”