PALO ALTO, Calif. –– The Bruins are just two games away from winning their first title since 2009.
No. 3 seed UCLA women’s water polo (24-6, 4-2 MPSF) won over No. 6 seed Michigan (23-9, 6-0 CWPA) 13-7 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA championship.
The Bruins led after one quarter by a score of 4-3. Senior attacker Lizette Rozeboom scored twice while junior attackers Bronte Halligan and Maddie Musselman added one each. UCLA scored on both of their power play opportunities of the frame.
“We knew we were going to be challenged,” Wright said. “Our backs were against the walls from a defensive standpoint or we didn’t hit some shots early that we should have. That’s what we’re going to see going forward.”
Senior goalie Carlee Kapana had seven saves in the first half, with several coming on Wolverine power plays. The Bruins continued their perfect 6-on-5 in the second period, and Musselman netted twice to complete her hat trick in just one half.
Both teams scored twice in the third quarter. The Bruins gave up two 5-meter penalty shots to the Wolverines, but Kapana stopped the second. Halligan put in her third goal of the game to give two Bruins a hat trick as UCLA led 10-7 with one quarter left to play.
Rozeboom said the Bruins’ improvements as a team helped as they began to pull away from the Wolverines.
“We’ve made a lot of steps on our offense,” Rozeboom said. “How we attack the goal, but also how we stay present in the moment. A lot of times we look ahead, and I think we’ve progressed a lot in staying true to ourselves in the moment.”
The Bruins put the game away with a 3-0 run in the fourth period. Rozeboom scored twice to give her four goals on the game. UCLA ran out the clock and advanced to the semifinals.
Musselman said the Bruins have grown more confident with the ball in their hands and are less afraid to take shots they may have avoided early on in the season.
“Confidence with the ball has been drastic for us,” Musselman said. “A lot of teams leave different players open and it’s our role to step up and take the water when we have to. I think that’s been a huge factor in our success lately.”
UCLA will face No. 2 seed Stanford on Saturday in the semifinals. The Bruins are 0-2 against the Cardinal this season, including a 7-6 loss when the teams faced off at the Avery Aquatic Center on April 6.
Wright said his team needs to come out with the right attitude against Stanford in order to stay in the game. He also said the Bruins cannot allow the same opportunities to the Cardinal that they allowed to the Wolverines.
“Michigan had three or four shots that were off the bar that could have been easy goals,” Wright said. “There just can’t be free goals against a team like Stanford. If we want to be the best team in the country, those things have to be cleaned up.”