The gloomy and cold weather of the Triton Invitational title game matched the mood of the Bruins after another loss to the Trojans.
No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (13-1) was on the verge of its first 14-0 start since 2008 and its first win against No. 1 USC (12-0) in over two years on Sunday – but neither of those things happened.
“This weekend there were some positives for sure, and I thought we did a good job on Saturday and Sunday morning,” said coach Adam Wright. “But (against USC), we struggled in every area.”
In the Bruins’ 10-3 loss to the Trojans, UCLA was held to its lowest scoring output of the season and went scoreless in the first half for the first time all year.
“We have to do a better job with our shooting confidence, and we have to want to shoot the ball,” Wright said. “We have to make a decision at some point whether we’re willing to play our game or play scared and not want to play.”
This marked the team’s fifth loss in a row to USC, and UCLA is now 1-5 against its crosstown rival in the last three seasons.
Freshman center Ava Johnson said the confidence was not there and that the loss was a hard pill to swallow. She said the team can only progress from the weekend, and it starts by getting better in practice.
“We’re our biggest rivals and we’re only as good as how we practice,” Johnson said. “We have to continue to go one hundred and ten percent and push each other to be better so when we get to the game, it will be easier than training.”
The Bruins had four games in two days and concluded their fourth tournament of the season.
Redshirt senior attacker Grace Reego said fatigue was a factor as the weekend went on, but said that the experience of playing in a tournament will be important come playoff time.
“By the third or fourth game, you’re pretty tired, scratched up and probably sunburnt, but that is what makes these tournaments and invitationals so valuable,” Reego said. “I think it’s that part of the season where you’re playing so many games within short amounts of time that it builds the kind of fitness and mentality needed for later on. When you play that tired, you have to dig deep and see what you’re made of.”
UCLA will have its first weekend of playing just one game Saturday when it hosts No. 6 Irvine.
Reego said the Bruins will try and grow from the Triton Invitational by extracting lessons from it that will help the team moving forward.
“Every single game (from the weekend) was a learning opportunity,” Reego said. “As long as we can pinpoint where we’re strong and where we still need to grow, we can keep growing in the right direction.”