Sunday, May 24

Women’s water polo clinches season opener with 11-2 win

Sophomore attacker Bronte Halligan scored two goals in UCLA's 11-2 win over Loyola Marymount. Three other Bruins also posted two goals in the season-opener. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin staff)

Multiple power outages throughout Saturday’s games did not stop the Bruins from finishing their season-opener.

Despite losing power to the game clock and the scoreboard, No. 2 UCLA (1-0) defeated No. 22 Loyola Marymount (0-2) 11-2 at the UCLA Invitational.

“I’m looking not for a perfect result. I am looking for what we have been doing in training and the past two weeks, and can we transfer that into a real game,” said coach Adam Wright. “Without a doubt we have to become a whole lot more consistent in how we play.”

It wasn’t until halfway through the first quarter before the Bruins started to find their offensive rhythm. Goals from attackers sophomore Maddie Musselman and redshirt junior Grace Reego established a one-goal lead over the Lions at the end of the first quarter.

The Bruins tacked on 3 goals in the second quarter – two from sophomore attacker Bronte Halligan and one from freshman attacker Roxy Wheaton on a 6-on-5 opportunity. A failed Loyola Marymount 5-meter penalty shot kept the Lions to a single goal before the half.

“I think this is a very new team with a new coaching staff so we worked the basics to the best of our ability and just kept pushing forward,” Halligan said. “This is our first week and we are just looking to do the basics right and make sure we are following all those little simple things.”

6-on-5 opportunities plagued UCLA early on – the Bruins converted 2 for 6 in the game. After subbing in multiple different rotations, the Bruins began to find their offensive groove.

“We try to take every game as a learning experience and try to grow throughout the game,” said senior attacker Devin Grab. “This week we focused a lot on counterattack – I think just wearing teams down with our counterattack and our press defense, it in turn gets easier to execute your offense by the end of the game.”

Both the Bruins and the Lions struggled to find the back of the net until the last minute of play in the third. A lob shot from Grab pushed the Bruins to a 7-2 lead into the final quarter.

UCLA’s highest scoring quarter came in the fourth when the Bruins scored four goals. A slow shot from Grab trickled into the back of the net, stamping the 11-2 final score.

“There were positives, but we didn’t think we would be a finished product this week,” Wright said. “We are a massive work-in-progress. But at the end of the day, overall, they did a nice job.”

Immediately following its game against Loyola Marymount, UCLA had a fast turnaround with an exhibition game against No. 2 USC.

The game against the crosstown rivals shifted dramatically, set at a much faster pace from that of the season-opener.

The unscored matchup proved to be helpful in many ways for the Bruins. Wright said the second exhibition matchup game against USC was positive for the team.

“We decided that we were going to play how we wanted to play and not just let it be on the reactive – they do something, we are always reacting,” Wright said. “We know if we use our legs the right way, we can play defense the right way. If we approach the goal the right way, it doesn’t have to necessarily be a goal, then we have a chance to put a good percentage on the cage.”

The Bruins will head to the UCSB Invitational next weekend in hopes to improve consistency.

“It’s hard to break old habits,” Wright said. “Our goal is if week-by-week we can start slowing breaking these habits and creating good habits, then we know we will have a chance to play against anyone.”

Shapiro joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2015 and contributed until 2018. She spent time on the women's water polo, men's water polo and baseball beats.

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