Performances in power-play situations have defined the way the UCLA women’s water polo team plays its games this season.
In anticipation of its final regular season game of the year, the Bruins will have two weeks off from competition to tighten their loose ends.
No. 4 UCLA (21-4, 2-2 MPSF) is fresh off of a loss against No. 1 Stanford (14-1,1-1) last weekend. The team will play its final game of the regular season against No. 3 USC (18-1, 2-0) on April 21. The Bruins lost to the Trojans in February in their only other meeting this year by a score of 4-6.
Coach Adam Wright and players have stated throughout the season that there are certain areas in which they have been continuously working on in training and include – but are not limited to – 6-on-5 situations, 5-on-6 situations and general attacking strategies.
“Each game shows us where we still need work, and we certainly have seen areas in our game that we can improve on,” said sophomore attacker Bronte Halligan.
Prior to this weekend, Wright said UCLA has needed to work on recognizing more opportunities when in 6-on-5 situations. In their penultimate game of the regular season last weekend, the Bruins scored all five of their goals in 6-on-5 situations. It was not the first time this season they have done this. In UCLA’s March 10 loss to California, each of the team goals came in 6-on-5 situations.
“We’ve created some opportunities on 6-on-5 that we haven’t been able to capitalize on,” Wright said. “(That’s) something we have touched on in practice.”
In addition to their work on situations when they are up a man, senior attacker Devin Grab said she knows the team needs to practice being defensive in 5-on-6 situations.
“We’ve been working on what we need to work on, including 5-on-6 encounters, which have been most disappointing,” Grab said.
Freshman goalkeeper Jahmea Bent said the juniors and seniors of the team identify where the Bruins need improvement and lead by example during training.
“The upperclassmen are the leaders of the team,” Bent said. “They tend to take the initiative in our practices.”
The two competition-free weeks that UCLA has coming up will be its final opportunity to perfect its game strategies before finishing the season.
“We have long practices and long training hours,” Halligan said. “But, when we’re in there, everyone’s working 100 percent and giving everything they’ve got. That’s always really awesome to see.”
UCLA’s upcoming match with USC will be their last until the MPSF championships, followed by the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins lost the 2017 championship game.
“For me the biggest thing (to practice) is this: We are going to have to decide what kind of team we want to be for the rest of the year,” Wright said.