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Women’s water polo looks ahead to home opener, conference play

Sophomore attacker Bella Baia is one of ten players with more than five goals for No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo. The Bruins will play at home for the first time this season Friday and Saturday when they host both conference play and the UCLA Mini Tournament.
(Alice Naland/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's water polo


No. 13 San Jose State
Friday, 6 p.m.

Spieker Aquatics Center
No TV info
No. 12 Fresno State
Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

Sunset Recreation Center
No TV info

By Kyle Boal

Jan. 31, 2020 1:39 a.m.

The Bruins begin conference play before March for the first time since at least 2014.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (8-1) will play conference opponent No. 13 San Jose State (3-4) in its home opener Friday before playing in the UCLA Mini Tournament against No. 12 Fresno State (2-4) and in an exhibition game against No. 1 USC (2-0) on Saturday.

UCLA was initially scheduled to play No. 16 Loyola Marymount rather than an exhibition against USC, but coach Adam Wright said the change will benefit every team.

“(The schedule change) was USC looking to enter into the (UCLA Mini) tournament,” Wright said. “It was nothing more than it worked out for LMU, USC and us to make a change. It worked out for all the coaches, so we took advantage of having this opportunity.”

These will be UCLA’s first home games of the season, after the Bruins traveled to Santa Barbara and Michigan for tournaments early in the season.

Sophomore attacker Bella Baia, who tied for fourth on the team with nine goals, said the team doesn’t prepare for home games any differently than away matches.

“The scenery is going to be quite familiar, so that’s going to be different,” Baia said. “It’ll be exciting to see more of a home crowd and everything, but in terms of how we prepare for it, it’ll be the exact same we have for all of our travel tournaments.”

San Jose State is coming off a 9-8 victory over No. 6 California at the Cal Cup in Berkeley. The Spartans also beat the Bulldogs at the tournament.

The Bulldogs went 1-3 at the Cal Cup, having to face two top-three opponents. UCLA has never lost to Fresno State, but the teams have only faced each other twice because the Bulldog program began in 2018.

Junior attacker Roxy Wheaton said the team is focused on improving and staying consistent, rather than the experience of playing a conference opponent or at home.

“(Home and conference games) aren’t really that different,” Wheaton said. “We try to approach every game the same, but we’re just going to try to keep doing what we’ve been doing, to keep progressing, working on the things we’ve been working on the past couple weeks.”

USC has only played two games this season, but has won by an average margin of 21-2. The Bruins have lost seven consecutive contests against the Trojans by an average score of 10-6.

Baia said the team is excited at the prospect of gauging its ability against the top-ranked Trojans and doesn’t mind the game being an exhibition.

“Whenever you get a chance to play one of the top four teams, top-10 teams, it’s really exciting to see where you’re at in regards to everybody,” Baia said. “It being an exhibition, I mean, I guess that’s good that it won’t hurt any team’s record, but I’d be fine with it just being a game anyways.”

UCLA will kick off its home and conference opener on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. at the Spieker Aquatics Center.

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Kyle Boal | Sports senior staff
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the football, men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the football, men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
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