Friday, May 29

After taking five MPSF awards, women’s water polo heads to NCAA tournament

Senior goalkeeper Carlee Kapana was selected to the All-MPSF Honorable Mention team. Kapana has logged 208 saves so far this season heading into the NCAA championships.(Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

As they await the start of the NCAA championship, the Bruins have collected their final regular season accolades.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (23-6, 4-2 MPSF) had five players selected to the All-MPSF teams last week before its eventual third-place finish in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship.

Junior attacker Maddie Musselman was the Bruins’ lone All-MPSF First Team member, her third straight year earning the honor.

Musselman has scored 55 goals for the Bruins this season, 21 more than anyone else on the team. She has scored at least three goals in eight games this year, including three games in which she scored five goals.

However, coach Adam Wright said Musselman is not only valuable on the attack.

“(Musselman) moves so well,” Wright said. “No one talks about the things she does for us defensively. She was able to bounce back from tougher games and she puts us in a position to be successful.”

Junior attacker Bronte Halligan was voted to the All-MPSF Second Team for the first time in her career. Halligan is third on the team in goals scored with 31, with four coming in three games against rival No. 2 USC.

Senior goalie Carlee Kapana was selected as an All-MPSF Honorable Mention, her third time finishing the season on one of the All-MPSF teams. Kapana has logged 208 saves through 25 starts with a goals against average of 6.65.

She has double-digit saves in 10 games this season, with five of those coming against rivals USC, No. 1 Stanford and No. 4 California.

Kapana said her approach in the net has not changed since she arrived here in Westwood, which has allowed her to consistently be one of the league’s top goalies.

“It’s basically about staying present throughout the whole game,” Kapana said. “Having in the back of my mind who their best shooters are and mainly trying to react.”

Freshmen attacker Val Ayala and center Ava Johnson both landed on the MPSF All-Newcomer team. Ayala is second on the team in scoring with 34 goals and has five hat tricks – including one in her first-ever collegiate game.

Johnson has the fifth-most goals for the Bruins with 20. She had four goals in the first game of the Triton Invitational, a 17-2 win over Santa Clara on Feb. 9.

Wright said the maturity he has seen from his young team this season has put the Bruins in a spot to compete for the championship at the end of the year.

“We’ve come a long ways in the last 50-plus days,” Wright said. “I really believe we can clean some things up and we can put ourselves in a position to have a chance. And that’s all we want – a chance.”

The Bruins’ stars will be on display as they start their path toward the title against No. 6 Michigan on May 10. Musselman said focusing on the small aspects of the game will be key in the Bruins’ hunt for the championship.

“Sometimes we get distracted from the little details, body position, fundamental skills,” Musselman said. “Going into the NCAAs, the little details will probably be the difference in all the games we will be playing.”

Assistant Sports editor

Perez is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's water polo and track and field beats. He was previously a staff writer on the football, gymnastics, beach volleyball, women's water polo and men's water polo beats.

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