Tuesday, February 25

Women’s water polo “˜finishers’ give season a fast start

Women's team members Priscilla Orozco and KK Clark are shining in their performance in the pool

Junior utility KK Clark and the No. 3 Bruins will host No. 5 Hawai'i tonight at
Spieker Aquatics Center in UCLA's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener.

Morgan Glier

Coach Brandon Brooks calls them his “finishers.”

Priscilla Orozco and KK Clark have been stuffing the stat sheet during the UCLA women’s water polo team’s fast start to the season.

Orozco has scored in every game and leads the team with 30 goals, while Clark has 26 and has scored in all but one game.

“When they get an opportunity to score, they’ve been successful at putting it away,” Brooks said.
Orozco’s production comes as no surprise. The senior attacker entered the year with 107 career goals and has always been a top offensive option.

But the role of “finisher” isn’t something that has come naturally to Clark, a junior utility, who, through 14 games this year, has almost matched her scoring output from a year ago (31).

“I haven’t always been that player,” Clark said. “In high school, I had amazing teammates, and we all just kind of fed off each other. It’s definitely a role I’m not quite used to yet, but I’m excited to see how I can fit into it.”

The offense overall also seems to be clicking better. The No. 3 Bruins (13-1), who face No. 5 Hawai’i today in their Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener, are averaging just over 10 goals per game, an improvement of about two goals per game from last season.

Despite Brooks’ roster staying the same from last year to this year, he notes there have been a lot of differences in offensive execution. But that might be the simple explanation behind the Bruins’ play.

“Since we returned everyone, we’re more comfortable playing with each other,” Orozco said. “Even the players that come off the bench are more comfortable playing with us, and they’re more comfortable shooting in different situations. A lot of goals have come from a lot of people and not just certain individuals like last year.”

Orozco and Clark also had to pick up the slack when senior center Grace Reynolds, UCLA’s leading scorer a year ago, was held out because of a shoulder injury. Reynolds is expected to return for today’s match against the Rainbow Wahine (3-2, 1-0 MPSF).

Today marks the beginning of what could be the most difficult stretch of the season for the Bruins.

After today’s game, UCLA will head to Irvine to compete in the UC Irvine Invitational on Saturday and Sunday. The field includes No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 USC, two MPSF teams UCLA could have a shot at before facing them in conference play.

“As long as we consider Hawai’i as the first game of the (Invitational) … and then build off our game, then we’ll be good in the weekend and we’ll be able to focus on MPSF teams that we play afterward,” Clark said.

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