Just like last season, the Bruins came out of the UC Santa Barbara Invitational without a loss.
No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (5-0 Pac-12) left Santa Barbara with five wins against ranked opponents – No. 18 CSUN, No. 6 Irvine, No. 24 Cal Baptist, No. 9 Michigan and No. 17 UCSB.
In the first weekend of competition, 52 goals came from 14 different Bruins.
Freshman attacker Val Ayala and senior attacker Lizette Rozeboom led UCLA in scoring. The tandem combined for 19 goals, including three hat tricks from Ayala and two from Rozeboom.
“(Ayala) has the ability to be a real special player,” said coach Adam Wright. “She’s super aggressive and finds spots to put herself in good position to score and that’s going to be key for us. With (Rozeboom), she has a powerful shot and brings with (her) such a strong presence and that forces the defense to react which opens up space for others.”
In the cage, senior goalkeepers Carlee Kapana and sophomore Jahmea Bent split time throughout the weekend. Kapana started all but the contest against Cal Baptist. Despite the one start for Bent, she made an appearance in four games during the invitational.
UCLA picked up a 10-6 win on the opening night of the new season over No. 18 CSUN.
Ayala dropped a hat trick in her first collegiate action followed by junior attacker Brooke Maxson with two and five others who scored.
The true freshman said she had no nerves leading up to her first game as a Bruin.
“I was ready to roll,” Ayala said. “It felt great getting some games under our belts after a week of practicing hard. I wasn’t nervous at all.”
The Bruins picked up wins of 10-6 and 17-8 on Saturday over No. 6 Irvine and No. 24 Cal Baptist, respectively.
Junior attacker and All-American Maddie Musselman found the back of the net four times against the Anteaters. Ayala picked up her second hat trick in as many games, while Rozeboom put in the first two of her nine goals on the weekend.
Kapana got the start in the cage and played the majority of the game, tallying six saves and surrendering six goals. Bent was subbed in for the final minute and a half of the contest.
In the win against the Lancers, Bent got the start and went the distance with seven saves and eight goals allowed. Rozeboom led the team with a hat trick, and four other Bruins had at least two goals.
“I think it’s awesome that we had so many different people scoring, especially because it will be harder for other teams to decide who to drop off of,” Rozeboom said. “That’s a really strong point of our team, that we are really deep and that we all can score.”
UCLA concluded the invitational with 9-7 and 6-3 wins over No. 9 Michigan and the host No. 17 UCSB on Sunday. Rozeboom and Ayala each had another hat trick against the Wolverines. Junior attacker Bronte Halligan and junior attacker Emily Skelly each had two scores against the Gauchos.
After besting five ranked teams in the first weekend, Wright said the invitational was a great opportunity for the Bruins to evaluate where they are as a team.
“There were a lot of positives, but there are still a lot of things to work on if we want to have a chance to be successful in every game,” Wright said. “The two tight games at the end serve us well for the future because if we want to be the best, we have to do well in pressure situations.”