The Bruins are taking things one step at a time in their quest back to the top.
UCLA women’s water polo will have the opportunity to bounce back from last season’s semifinal loss and capture its first national title since 2009. The Bruins were recently picked to finish third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation by coaches.
Coach Adam Wright is entering his second season leading both the women’s and men’s water polo teams. He said the short gap between the seasons makes it tough, since he can work with the men’s team all summer, but added he will work with his team to help them grow throughout the year.
“The season is very different from the men’s season as far as the time we have together,” Wright said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to take advantage of our time together. We do have the ability through the season to develop players.”
Wright returns his top three scorers from last year’s squad, including attackers senior Lizette Rozeboom and junior Bronte Halligan. Those two combined for 75 goals and 58 assists.
Junior attacker Maddie Musselman led the team with 53 goals and was named an All-American in 2018. She said learning how to play under Wright’s system was an important takeaway from last season, and integrating the newcomers will be the biggest challenge for the team.
“(We have to focus on) the importance of fundamentals and the little details,” Musselman said. “It didn’t matter how we finished last year. Looking into this season, we have a new group of girls that are really excited to be a part of it, and focusing on the fundamentals is going to be really big for us.”
The Bruins will welcome nine freshmen to the team, including attacker Katrina Drake and center Skylar Savar, who played together at Miramonte High School in Orinda, California.
Senior goalie Carlee Kapana also ended last season as an All-American. Kapana said with a young roster, she and the other veterans will try to help the rookies feel comfortable and ready to play for the Bruins.
“Coming together (is important) because we have a really young group,” Kapana said. “(We will be) taking them under our wings and showing them all we have to offer through our experiences being college athletes.”
UCLA went 0-6 last season against USC and Stanford, teams that finished first and second in the NCAA tournament, respectively, but went 23-2 against the rest of their opponents. Wright said the Bruins will have to hone in on his system in order to topple last year’s national championship contenders.
“Those two teams have been at the top on the women’s side for a long time, and they’re great programs,” Wright said. “I do believe we’ve added some depth this year. We’re going to have to be super sharp defensively, and we’re going to have to be creative.”