Of the top-four collegiate women’s water polo teams, the Bruins are seeded fourth. Before UCLA takes on its top-four companions – No.1 seed USC, No. 2 seed Stanford and No. 3 seed California – it will be making some changes to its training.
The only three teams that the No. 4 seed UCLA women’s water polo has fallen to this season are also the three top-ranked teams in the NCAA tournament. The Bruins and the Trojans will each have to win one game before they get the chance to face off for the fourth time this season. The Golden Bears and the Cardinal will have to do the same.
Although UCLA has had more than one game in which every one of its goals was scored in a 6-on-5 situation, one thing that the Bruins have said that they want to work on is their performance in situations in which they are up a player and in which they are down a player.
“We have to get a lot better on our 5-on-6 and 6-on-5 before we play again,” said coach Adam Wright. “We create a lot of opportunities, but we struggle to see them through.”
Aside from 6-on-5 and 5-on-6 situations, the Bruins have spoken about having stronger mentalities entering game day. Sophomore attacker Brooke Maxson said that having confidence will help them take on their higher-ranked opponents.
“We have to focus a lot on being stronger – mentally and physically,” Maxon said. “We have been pushing our conditioning pretty hard so that we can be ready to compete at any level.”
Wright said he agrees that the team will have to work on confidence before it plays again. He attributes its trouble with shooting to a lack of mental preparedness.
“Offensively, they’ve got to shoot,” Wright said. “We can’t rely on one or two people. People have to step up and do it. It’s a confidence thing that we are going to have to get over.”
The NCAA championship bracket is played single-elimination style. If UCLA fails to beat Pacific on May 11, it will be out the tournament before it has the opportunity to meet USC.
“Now, it is about winning each game and taking each game as it comes,” said sophomore attacker Bronte Halligan. “Our season’s on the line every game we play now, which isn’t a bad thing. This team has grown a lot this season and has a lot more room to grow before the end.”