The Bruin defense was able to hold Pacific to just 4 goals in the NCAA tournament quarterfinal.
“The hallmark of UCLA women’s water polo has absolutely been attention to defense and we’ve seen it a lot here today,” said coach Adam Wright.
No. 4 UCLA women’s water polo bested Pacific 8-4 at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Friday, ending the latter’s season. This was the third time the Bruins beat the Tigers this year.
UCLA was able to take home the victory despite sophomore attacker Maddie Musselman – the team’s leading scorer – missing the game due to an undisclosed injury.
Freshman attacker Roxy Wheaton scored first for the Bruins, followed by junior attacker Lizette Rozeboom, giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead entering the second quarter.
Senior attacker Nicole Reynolds opened the scoring in the second quarter and freshman attacker Lexi Liebowitz scored her first of the day just seconds before Pacific scored for the first time. As the period-ending buzzer sounded, the Tigers bounced a second goal in, splitting the quarter with the Bruins. The half ended at 4-2.
“Our offense is obviously important but (junior goalkeeper Carlee Kapana) shines. She puts us in good positions. We are able to do what we do because she’s back there,” Wright said.
The Bruins were first to the ball in the second half but failed to find the back of the net until senior attacker Devin Grab scored almost two and a half minutes later. Shortly after, sophomore attacker Bronte Halligan assisted Grab in her second goal of the game. Pacific answered 20 seconds later, ending the third quarter 6-3.
Rozeboom netted her second of the day early in the fourth quarter and was followed by Liebowitz, who also scored her second goal. After a four-minute scoring drought, Pacific scored its fourth and final goal. The Bruins held the Tigers for the remainder of the game and won 8-4.
“Playing with so many great people around me has certainly helped me to become better, it’s how we always go out there and do our best,” Rozeboom said.
Although UCLA controlled most of the game, the Bruins were limited to just 2 goals per quarter and Kapana faced a number of close calls near the goal.
“If we want to get though tomorrow, we are going to have to play better defense than we’ve had all season,” Wright said.
Following its quarterfinal win, UCLA will meet crosstown rival – No. 1 seed USC – for the fourth time Saturday afternoon. The Bruins have fallen to the Trojans in all three of their meetings so far this season.
“There’s no denying that playing ‘SC at ‘SC won’t be fun, but we are going to focus on what we can control,” said Grab.