The women’s water polo championship loss to Stanford on Sunday was the last game for UCLA’s senior class, but they’ll still leave a legacy unlike many other classes’ in the past.
This group of seniors reached the national championship game three times – something no other class has done since the class of 2010.
After this class’ first season, the only year that UCLA failed to make the national championship game was when four of the seniors redshirted to try and earn a roster spot on national teams.
Redshirt senior center Alexa Tielmann redshirted last year’s season to train with the Canadian national team. In 2015, she was the starting center when Canada earned silver at the 2015 World University Games.
The three others redshirted with aspirations of making the USA women’s senior national team’s roster for the 2016 Olympics. Redshirt senior defender Alys Williams and redshirt senior attacker Kodi Hill trained with the team for months before eventually missing the final bid, while redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal made the roster.
Hill has led the team in assists in each of her four seasons as a Bruin and is ninth in school history in steals with 116, with Williams five spots ahead of her with 130. This season, Fattal was second in goals, assists and steals while leading the team in blocks with 16.
In her four-year tenure, Fattal finishes third on the all-time goals scored list with 215 and is the all-time UCLA steals leader with 187. She also held the UCLA freshman scoring record with 68 goals, until this year when attacker Maddie Musselman surpassed her record by one goal.
The freshman, however, attributed much of her contribution to the program to the seniors two weeks ago.
“I skipped a level of water polo (playing in the Olympics before college) and they helped me adapt and fit into this team perfectly, find my role and play it with a passion that I really like,” Musselman said. “Their leadership has helped me become a leader in a different way than I have been before.”
The absence of these players deeply impacted how the Bruins’ 2016 season panned out – they claimed third place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament and lost to Stanford in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
With Tielmann, Williams, Hill and Fattal absent last year, though, the other three seniors stepped up to fill in their spots.
Senior utility Mackenzie Barr was named a 2016 Peter J. Cutino Award finalist and was named to the ACWPC All-American first team after leading the team with 44 goals and 28 assists.
Senior attacker Kelsey O’Brien registered 25 goals, 20 assists, 41 steals and 11 blocks – all career bests – which were good for an ACWPC All-American honorable mention, and senior defender Aubrie Monahan recorded a career high in blocks with 13.
But with all of their individual accomplishments, one thing this group of seniors hasn’t been able to do is bring a title to Westwood. With them leaving, the chance to win title number eight is now in the hands of the younger players.
“What’s important now is that we have our girls learn from that and take that loss into next season,” Williams said.
Freshman utility Bronte Halligan, who started this year alongside the seniors, will be one of the returning players and reiterated Williams’ message after Sunday’s loss.
“I know the seniors are leaving us, but there’s always a big legacy here and it’s amazing to be a part of,” Halligan said. “We’ve got to learn from that (game) and we’ve got to move on.”