The No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo team has been putting in hard work this week to prepare for its biggest test of the season against talented conference opponents at the Stanford Invitational this weekend.
The last time UCLA was in Palo Alto, Calif., the Bruins claimed the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title, beating Stanford in overtime to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Nine months later, the team returns to play at the Stanford Invitational, a tournament with brackets that include eight of the nation’s top-20 teams.
This is the first tournament this season in which UCLA will play schools that have traditionally contended for MPSF and NCAA titles each April and May, respectively.
Sophomore attacker Emily Donohoe said the team needs to improve on its defensive sets in order to be ready for this weekend, which will feature a No. 1 Stanford squad that has won the last three Stanford Invitational titles.
“I think it’s going to be our first big test on kind of how we are against the other top teams in the MPSF,” Donohoe said. “We definitely have to work hard this week and prepare. I think we are all very excited about it.”
The Bruins will head to Palo Alto undefeated, but for redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sami Hill, a perfect record is trivial at this point.
“I think it’s better for us to focus on each game individually, thinking about that team and what would you do to beat that team, instead of building our confidence on a record because every team is different,” Hill said.
The Bruins had an impressive showing at the UC Santa Barbara Winter Invitational last weekend, cruising to a 4-0 record in the two-day affair.
Coach Brandon Brooks said he was pleased to see that his team improved after its first tournament and hopes to see similar adjustments for this tournament.
“I thought we did well on our counter attack this weekend. … This week we are trying to really put things together, so that everyone is moving to the right spots at the same time,” Brooks said.
“This coming week we are going to face very strong competition so we have a definite test to see where we are at.”
Hill agreed with Brooks about the importance of the Invitational and believes the team needs to work as a unit in order to win.
“Just working together is the biggest thing we can do right now,” Hill said. “This is one of our biggest tournaments. This is the time to prove ourselves.”
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