At the beginning of each practice this week, the women’s water polo team gathered in a circle.
One by one, the players went around and stated one thing they were going to do in this weekend’s game against archrival USC.
“We talk about their players and what we need to do to stop them,” senior attacker Priscilla Orozco said. “Everyone just goes around and says one thing they’re going to do, whether it’s “˜I’m going to get a shot block’ or “˜I’m going to get a goal.'”
This focus on consistency and individual determination will be key in the No. 4 Bruins’ matchup against the No. 3 Trojans (15-4, 3-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) on Saturday.
While UCLA (19-5, 2-3) holds the all-time advantage ““ boasting 38 wins to USC’s 18 ““ it has fallen just short of success in both matchups against the Trojans this season.
For the Bruins, however, there is some saving grace to these losses.
“Since we’ve played USC twice this year, we feel prepared, and that helps. There’s nothing too unexpected,” junior utility KK Clark said. “All the cards are laid out and whatever happens, happens.”
The ace among USC’s cards is senior center Kristen Dronberger, who leads the Trojans in goals scored this season.
Dronberger’s strength, combined with the Trojans’ plethora of skilled outside shooters, promises to put the Bruins’ talented goalie duo ““ junior Caitlin Dement and freshman Sami Hill ““ to the test.
While such detailed knowledge of the opponent is undoubtedly a benefit, the proximity and history between the two teams is a volatile element that could either help or hurt the Bruins.
“All of us, as players, as Bruins, give everything we’ve got during a USC game,” said Orozco, who has scored eight of the Bruins’ 16 goals in this season’s USC matchups. “That’s definitely got a lot to do with my performance.”
While this passion can be a good thing in small doses, UCLA will need to keep the emotion of the game somewhat contained in order to play with the composure and consistency that has eluded the team so far this season.
The roster boasts impressive depth at nearly every position, but the pieces have yet to completely come together, a fact of which coach Brandon Brooks is all too aware.
“We’re focusing this week on having good balance in our offense and just on executing,” he said. “We’re gearing up for a huge game ““ if we get any opportunities, we need to be able to convert on them.”
In hopes of achieving this quickness, the Bruins have spent much of this week’s practice time scrimmaging and working on breakaway drills, which will hopefully result in more consistent, widespread scoring come game time.
“We’ve just been focusing on ourselves,” said Clark. “We know that if we perfect what we want to do, then we’re going to come out with a win.”