Monday, May 20

Women’s water polo sinks competition in last tournament, aims for more in next one

Sophomore attacker Lexi Liebowitz played in all 31 games last season, making 21 total starts. As a freshman, she logged 22 goals, 22 assists and 16 steals in the 2018 season. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Sophomore attacker Lexi Liebowitz played in all 31 games last season, making 21 total starts. As a freshman, she logged 22 goals, 22 assists and 16 steals in the 2018 season. (Daily Bruin file photo)

The Bruins are slated to face two more top-25 teams after an undefeated first weekend.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (5-0) will kick off its second weekend of the season at the Cal Cup at which they will face No. 13 UC Davis (2-1) and No. 17 Fresno State (1-3).

Junior attacker Bronte Halligan – who tallied two goals in the final game against No. 10 UC Santa Barbara – said the Bruins had to grind out the last two wins Sunday, but are looking forward to continue to hone in on the basics this weekend.

“Our energy and presence in the water as a team were pretty good last weekend,” Halligan said. “I loved that everyone was ready to jump in at any moment offensively. Defensively, we need to muscle up a bit better, but that’ll come as the season comes along.”

UC Davis is led by utility Annie Kutt, defender McKenna Hauss and attacker Marcela Portales. Kutt led the Aggies last season in total points with 84, scoring 36 times and also having the most assists with 48.

The Aggies opened their season and won their first two games by double digits. They cruised past Fresno Pacific in a 21-6 win and followed that with a 15-5 win over Santa Clara. UC lost to No. 14 San Jose State 12-9 in their Aggie Invite finale.

Last weekend, Aggies’ center Noelle Wijnbelt and Kutt led the way in goals with eight and seven, respectively, and earned two hat tricks a piece.

Fresno State competed in the UC Santa Barbara Invitational but did not end up with nearly the same amount of success as the Bruins did.

The Bulldogs are led by center Emily Nicholson and utility Callie Woodruff, their two top scorers from last season and All-Golden Coast Conference selections.

While the Aggies started their season with two double-digit wins, the Bulldogs started their season with two double-digit losses.

Fresno State’s first loss was to UCSB 15-5, followed by a 19-3 loss to reigning national champion No. 1 USC. Fresno State concluded the first weekend of the season with a win against No. 18 Indiana 12-7 and a 11-6 loss against No. 9 Michigan. Nicholson and Woodruff combined for 11 goals on the weekend.

This weekend, UCLA will also play two exhibition matches against No. 4 California and No. 2 Stanford.

“Even when it’s a scrimmage, it’s always fun to play one of the top-four teams,” said sophomore attacker Lexi Liebowitz. “Everyone is obviously very competitive and there are some great players on every team. There’s always a big crowd and it’s always super exciting.”

The Bruins could only gather one win in five contests against the Golden Bears and the Cardinal last season, including the loss to Cal in the third-place game of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.

While these exhibitions won’t count towards UCLA’s record, coach Adam Wright said that the important thing to take away from them is how the team matches up against two of the best teams in the country for when the games count later in the season.

“Any time Pac-12 schools play each other, the rivalry is there and we’re constantly battling with those teams,” Wright said. “This weekend serves a little bit differently because it’s a great opportunity to develop players and get everybody some experience and have the only result be the answer to the question, ‘How did we do?’”

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Sports staff

Veal is currently a Sports staff writer for the softball and women's water polo beats. He was previously a reporter for the cross country and men's soccer beats.

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