The UCLA women’s water polo team flew home from Honolulu late Sunday night, but it wasn’t feeling the soothing effects of a relaxing spring break vacation.
Instead, the Bruins had more resemblance to businesswomen, exuding the confidence and focus of a team fresh off defeating its fifth straight Mountain Pacific Sports Federation foe.
Saltwater took a backseat to the chlorinated water of the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex for the Bruins, who quickly nullified Hawai’i’s home-pool advantage, logging a wire-to-wire 8-4 victory.
“It’s difficult to play in Hawai’i,” senior goalkeeper Caitlin Dement said. “I mean everyone wants to go hang out at the beach and be in the sun and go in the ocean, but you just have to focus and remember that you’re here to play a game ““ and we did.”
No. 1 UCLA (16-1, 5-0 MPSF) also gave its fans, accustomed to early-game deficits yielding nail-biting victories, a chance to let their cuticles return to normal, dominating early and never trailing No. 16 Hawai’i (7-11, 0-6). This marks the first time the Bruins haven’t had to play catchup in more than a month.
“It was definitely a really good game for us, getting the lead and holding a lead for the whole game, which is something we haven’t really been able to do this whole season,” senior utility KK Clark said.
The Bruins found a way to stifle Hawai’i’s offense early; this consistent defensive attack likely stems from a new substitution method used by UCLA’s coaching staff that allows fresh legs to constantly be in the pool.
“In the past we would have our starting six players play, then a couple girls leave and that was when we would generally sub,” Dement said.
“(Against Hawai’i), we decided to go six-for-six, and pretty much everyone on the team played, which means you’re only in for three minutes instead of eight-minute quarters. You’re able to push that much harder.”
Preparing for the Golden Bears
In a rematch of a Stanford Invitational game in which the Bruins were victorious, UCLA will head to Berkeley this weekend to face No. 5 California.
The Golden Bears fell in conference play to both No. 4 Arizona State and No. 3 USC in March, but UCLA is conscious of the dangers associated with playing a team as skilled and as hungry as Cal.
“Cal’s a really good team,” Clark said. “Everyone on this team knows and respects Cal. We need to just do the same things we have been doing in preparing for them, and hopefully we play well up there.”
Compiled by Andrew Erickson, Bruin Sports contributor.