The Bruins will head south with the opportunity to keep their perfect record intact.
No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (10-0) will visit UC San Diego to compete in the Triton Invitational. UCLA will face Santa Clara (2-2) in its first game Saturday, and will then play either No. 11 UC Davis (4-4) or No. 25 Marist (3-3) later in the day.
With the Bruins playing in four games this weekend, coach Adam Wright said trying to implement his system while maintaining his players’ rest time has been an early lesson for him since he took the job last season.
“It’s a balance,” Wright said. “In the early going, we’re trying to establish how we play defense, attack, counter while we try to create a base of fitness. One of the biggest things for us is getting bodies healthy. So, we have to be careful about how much of a workload we’re putting on them.”
No. 1 USC (8-0) and No. 9 Arizona State (5-2) are both on the other side of the tournament bracket. The Bruins faced both teams in last season’s Triton Invitational. They defeated the Sun Devils 7-6 but fell to the Trojans 6-4.
UCLA went 0-4 overall against USC in Wright’s first season. Junior attacker Maddie Musselman said the Bruins will be concentrating on their next opponent rather than looking ahead to any potential opponents.
“Focusing on us (will be key),” Musselman said. “Sometimes it gets hyped up that we’re playing our rival. We’re the most important (to focus on), us as a team, and if we go outside that, then we’re not going to win. If we do what we’re supposed to, body positioning and focusing on the little details, it’ll be a tight game.”
The Bruins played in their closest game of the season Saturday against then-No. 15 Loyola Marymount (2-2), winning by just one goal. Wright said his team hopefully has learned not to underestimate any game, but this theory will be tested against his team’s first unranked opponent this year.
“Give credit to Loyola for how they came out and played, but from our end, we absolutely didn’t approach that game the right way,” Wright said. “We have Santa Clara in the first game. You can’t approach Santa Clara different than Hawai’i or any other team. And if we do that, then we’re cheating ourselves from getting better.”
The Bruins have allowed at least eight goals in their last five contests after only conceding eight once in their first five. They only allowed up to six goals in the last Triton Invitational.
Junior attacker Emily Skelly said the team is still fine-tuning parts of its defense that will start to shine once the players have mastered Wright’s system.
“I think that we have really just been working on our fundamentals and trying to lock those down,” Skelly said. “If we can do the little details right, a lot will come together. Just trying to nail the small things will help us in the end.”