Sunday, May 24

A fresh women’s water polo squad looks to build team cohesion

Attacker Devin Grab is one of the three seniors on UCLA women’s water polo’s roster. Last year, Grab totaled 12 goals and five assists in 14 games. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin staff)

UCLA women’s water polo has only played one game so far this season and has only been together for two full weeks.

“I’d by lying if I said I knew what the other teams are doing and what players they have, but I am also trying to figure out our players,” said coach Adam Wright. “First and foremost, I have to figure out our team before I worry about who we are going to be playing (against).”

After No. 2 UCLA jumped to a 1-0 record after an 11-2 win over No. 22 Loyola Marymount this past weekend, the Bruins are looking ahead to strengthen team dynamics, said senior attacker Devin Grab. With another tournament looming overhead this upcoming weekend, the urgency to learn more about the team’s cohesion is of main priority moving forward.

“We are a very new team. … As team sport, everyone knows that you have to communicate and tell your friend if you are in need of help,” said sophomore attacker Bronte Halligan. “Working on building team cohesion, I think, will be the most important thing within the team and also within our coaching staff as well.”

The Bruins are composed of a mere three graduating seniors, nine juniors, seven sophomores and four freshmen, having lost a total of seven seniors after the previous season, some of whom carried Olympic experience.

“We have a pretty young team and only have three seniors graduating,” Grab said. “I think younger people stepping into big roles – they are going to have to be comfortable doing that and be ready to do that.”

The first game this past weekend was a litmus test to see exactly that.

“I am watching for the individuals who are getting themselves in the right body position. How they are reacting when they are tired,” Wright said. “These are all new things that we are putting into play with the team.”

From both an offensive and defensive standpoint, the Bruins showed promise in little details of their game thus far.

“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,” Wright said. “Those things are key. Also, some of the movements that we are doing with drive defense were big positives.”

Wright said he has been pleased with the Bruins’ energy and focus so far. He added that in the coming weeks, the focus is to break old habits and create good new habits.

“For me, it has been a real pleasure working with them so far. Every day they want to learn, are eager to work hard, are eager to try to reach their goal, and my job is to put them in the position to be successful,” Wright said.

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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