Nicholas Yekikian, assistant Sports editor
UCLA softball’s 56-game campaign begins this weekend.
The No. 4 Bruins will face four different opponents this weekend – none of whom are ranked.
For its season opener Friday, UCLA plays Maryland and Middle Tennessee. Saturday features a doubleheader against Cal Poly and its last game of the weekend will be against UC Riverside.
Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez is approaching the year with fresh eyes and a number of fresh faces.
UCLA has the No.1-ranked freshman class going into this season, and this weekend is when it will get its first taste of college ball.
“We don’t get any bonus points for having been in the world series last year,” Inouye-Perez said. “We need to get out there and compete. I’ve got some freshmen that I can’t wait to see play for the first time … and seniors that are on a mission.”
The Bruins will welcome back five seniors to the roster, including infielder Kylee Perez and pitcher Selina Ta’amilo. For them, the mission begins this weekend.
All of the tournament’s games will be played at Easton Stadium.
Track and field
Nicholas Yekikian, assistant Sports editor
UCLA track and field will compete in its final two regular season meets of the year this weekend.
Most of the team will head to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the Don Kirby Invitational. The distance runners, however, will make their way to Washington state for the Husky Classic.
The split-squad affair will be the first action track and field has had in two weeks.
So far, the throwers have been the big news for the Bruins. Freshman thrower Alyssa Wilson has already broken into the UCLA record book in the shot put. Junior Justin Stafford has done the same in weight throw.
They both sit seventh all-time in their respective events.
As the indoor season begins to wind down, throws coach John Frazier said he will be switching up Stafford’s training to get him ready for the outdoor season, but he and Wilson will still be going to New Mexico.
This weekend marks a number of Bruin debuts too. Freshman sprinter Tyler Asemota and redshirt freshman miler Andy Ehrenberg will make their UCLA debuts for track and field, though Ehrenberg ran for cross country in 2017.
Sophomore distance runner Cassandra Durgy will make her season debut at the Husky Classic in the mile.
Melissa Zhang, senior staff
UCLA will host UNLV on Saturday for its last home match before hitting the road for Seattle and the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship.
No. 7 UCLA (6-1) will look to rebound after its first loss of the season Sunday, falling to No. 5 Stanford in the Bruins’ first matchup against another top-10 team. UCLA dropped one spot in the Division I rankings after its narrow 4-3 defeat.
The UNLV Rebels boast a 4-2 record, but have been unable to log a single win across the 16 occasions in which they have faced the Bruins. UCLA most recently left Henderson, Nevada, with a 6-1 win in March 2016.
Senior Martin Redlicki, who earned the No. 1 spot in the Oracle/ITA Division I Men’s National Singles Rankings in November, held on to the top slot in the country when the list was updated Wednesday. Redlicki and the Bruins will face off against the Rebels at the Los Angeles Tennis Center starting at 1 p.m.
Swimming and diving
Armando Carrillo, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins only have one more dual meet before heading into the postseason.
UCLA swimming and diving (5-5, 2-4 Pac-12) will go up against No. 13 USC (6-2, 3-2) on Friday and Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Center.
Coach Cyndi Gallagher said the Bruins should know what to expect because they have already competed against USC at the SMU Classic, during which the Trojans took first and the Bruins took fourth, and at the Texas Invitational in fall 2017.
“(We have) been rising up to the occasion with every team,” Gallagher said. “I’m sure that our team will challenge.”
Last season, the Bruins posted nine personal bests while battling the Trojans and, this year, Gallagher expects nothing less.
Gallagher said that the rivalry between the two teams brings out the best in the athletes and that someone always surprises the team with an uplifting performance.
“We’ve done the work, and we know we’ve done the work,” said senior Marie-Pierre Delisle. “(I expect) to see some fast racing, to see really big improvements in times and technique from my teammates and myself.”
Gallagher said that the swimmers don’t feel drained when they compete at this meet because there’s a lot of energy.
“(With) this meet, you can’t really help it,” Gallagher said. “The band’s coming, you know, it’s just, the parents are here. It’s Senior Day. I mean, there’s just a lot of emotion.”
Despite this meet being the last dual, Delisle said the Bruins are focused on what lies ahead at the Pac-12 championships and at the NCAA championships.
Gallagher said that the swimmers are not going to start tapering until after USC.
Diving coach Tom Stebbins said he expects to see his divers fight to execute what they’ve been working on at practice and to seek composure over anything else.
Women’s water polo
Claire Britton, Daily Bruin contributor
UCLA women’s water polo has scored 107 goals in the last nine games.
“We play our best offensively when we start with a really good defense,” said junior defender Rachel Whitelegge. “When we make good stops and really communicate, that really translates down the pool, allowing us to feel a lot more confident in each other knowing that we know we also have each other’s back defensively.”
This weekend, the No. 4 Bruins (9-0) are gearing up to head down to San Diego for the Triton Invitational.
In addition to good defense, for sophomore attacker Brooke Maxson, the key to outstanding offensive play stems from the within the team itself.
“Our best game comes when we are all united and we really focus in what we we’ve been doing in training throughout the whole season,” Maxson said.
Coach Adam Wright said the Bruins plan on perfecting various techniques before this weekend.
“We need to have better balance of how we’re moving, how we are attacking zones,” Wright said. “That’s going to be very important, because, at the end of the day, teams are going to come into the zone and how we approach it is going to be important.”
Among many teams at the Triton Invitational, UCLA will see 11 ranked opponents, including No. 2 USC (3-0), one of the Bruins’ biggest rivals.
“I think it should be a good showcase of who’s going to be ready to show up – like, when it matters – (and) who is going to going to put in the extra work,” Maxson said.
UCLA will face Iona in the first round of the invitational Saturday at 8 a.m.