Sunday, January 26

After two years, she’s leading the goal

Following star Emily Feher's example, water polo goalie Brittany Fullen plays a team-oriented leader

Brittany Fullen came to UCLA knowing she would have to wait two years before she got her opportunity to defend the cage for the women’s water polo team.

Now, two years later, Fullen has finally moved into the role of starting goalkeeper, and she’s done so with a great sense of Bruin pride.

During her freshmen and sophomore seasons, Fullen played behind Emily Feher. Feher graduated last year after leading UCLA to a national title, and after a four-year career that led coach Adam Krikorian to call her “one of the best goalkeepers in college water polo history.”

Recognizing the caliber of talent preceding her, Fullen seized the opportunity to hone her own skills as she worked out alongside Feher, who has undoubtedly had an impact on the player, as well as the person, that Fullen is today.

“She was as amazing a person as she was a player,” Fullen said of Feher. “It was really cool to have worked with her so closely.”

Fullen credits Feher with helping her develop the work ethic that she now possesses. Krikorian has noticed.

“(Fullen) is a great worker,” Krikorian said. “She just gets after it. You don’t need to give her any motivation or encouragement.”

The years behind Feher changed more than Fullen’s practice habits ““ they helped her become the leader she is today.

Yet, she wasn’t always so vocal.

“My freshman year I was scared of my own team more than any other team, because they were amazing,” Fullen said.

Fullen explained that her intimidation was a result of the age differences between the older and younger girls, as well as the presence of two Olympians.

“I’m a shy person by nature in general,” Fullen said. “If you would have met me my freshman year, now you would see a huge difference.”

Still, Fullen is modest about her leadership role.

“I’m still trying to be a leader,” Fullen said. “We’ve still got some seniors, but I’ll get there.”

Krikorian, however, seems to believe that Fullen already exhibits leadership qualities.

“She already is a big leader for us,” Krikorian said. “She’s done a great job communicating and leading our defense. I only think she’ll get better as the season progresses.

“This is her first year seeing action, and I think as she feels more comfortable and more confident, she’ll just get better and better. She’s going to be one of the best goalies, if not the best goalie, in the country.”

Fullen emphasizes that since becoming a Bruin she has learned that the importance of teamwork cannot be overstated.

“I’ve learned that playing as a team is really important; it’s more of a team win than it is an individual win,” Fullen said. “The journey to get there is almost more important than the outcome. If we put it all in the pool, then we’re happy.”

Fullen’s presence in the net adds another twist to the heated rivalry between UCLA and USC: The Trojan keeper, Tumua Anae, was Fullen’s high school teammate at Corona Del Mar.

The two teams met this past weekend at the Stanford Invitational, where the Bruins won 8-4 to secure their No. 1 ranking.

Fullen described the atmosphere as more friendly than hostile.

“I’m so proud of (Anae), because I watched her grow up as player,” Fullen said. “It’s just really fun to see her play.”

This season, Fullen hopes to see the team develop as a unit, and above all, get better.

“I would honestly just love to see us improve to our fullest potential, as long as we’re working hard and doing our best,” Fullen said.

Even though she’s only been starting for one year, Fullen has already learned to take things slowly. That means not worrying about winning a possible fourth consecutive national title in the month of February.

“Of course we want to win a championship,” Fullen said. “But that’s far away and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

In terms of her goals for herself, Fullen refused to distance herself from the goals and ambitions of her team as a whole.

“I hope to fill my position personally as best as I can, so that I can help the team,” Fullen said.

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