It’s been deja vu for the Bruins in the pool.
No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (21-4, 4-1 MPSF) has an identical record as it did at this point last season in coach Adam Wright’s second year with the team.
Wright said although his team may be in the same spot after its loss against No. 1 Stanford (16-1, 4-0), the players are getting better with each game.
“We had our opportunities,” Wright said. “We made our lives more difficult. Of course, it was disappointing, but there’s a lot to learn from it.”
The Bruins’ current record of 21-4 is the same as it was on this date last year, although the Bruins have played one more game in 2019.
UCLA was also coming off a narrow loss on the first Saturday of April in 2018, just as they are this year following the Stanford match. The Bruins fell to the Cardinal early in both of the two seasons in the Barbara Kalbus Invitational, conceding 10 goals each time.
Junior attacker Bronte Halligan said improvements against the Cardinal in both seasons show when the Bruins start to play as a team, they can compete against anyone.
“The big thing was confidence and team cohesion,” Halligan said. “It’s a big difference. We’ve proved to everyone else that we can take it to the best and play with them. We’re just going to build and progress from here.”
The similarities do not stop there. UCLA has split back-to-back games against California in both seasons. The Bruins also fell to the Trojans in the championship game of the Triton Invitational and had an overtime victory over UC Irvine in both years.
Senior goalie Carlee Kapana said the Bruins have worked on keeping the focus on their next opponent, which she believes is one of the team’s biggest improvements from the beginning of the season to now.
“Staying present throughout the whole game is what we’ve been striving to do,” Kapana said. “Not thinking towards the future or thinking about the past mistakes. Just going out to the game in the present.”
There are a few differences. The Bruins are ranked No. 3 in the country right now, while they were fourth in the same poll in 2018. Wright’s team is also guaranteed to have a better conference record this year, as they can now lose no more than two conference matches.
It is yet to be seen if these similarities follow them to the postseason. Last year, UCLA finished fourth in the MPSF Championship and bowed out in the semifinals of the NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championship.
“We have a long ways to go,” Wright said. “Our goal is to be the best at the end. That’s the way it should work if we grow the right way every day. There’s a lot of positives, but at the end of the day, there’s a long ways to go.”