Monday, March 30

Women’s water polo features a sea of consistent scorers, but Abbi Hill stands out

Freshman utility Abbi Hill has 29 goals in 11 matches for No. 3 UCLA women's water polo. She has at least one goal in every game she has played, including seven in a contest against No. 18 Wagner. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin senior staff)

This post was updated Feb. 4 at 5:29 p.m.

The Bruins have had one constant all season – freshman utility Abbi Hill scoring goals.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (10-1, 1-0 MPSF) is coming off two wins at the UCLA Mini Tournament, including an exhibition upset over No. 1 USC (3-0) in overtime.

USC had not allowed more than three goals in a single game all season, a mark that had come earlier in Saturday’s tournament to No. 16 Loyola Marymount, a game the Trojans won by 13.

While stats were not officially recorded for the contest against the Trojans, Hill had four goals and two assists – good for having a hand in 60% of the Bruins’ total points. The six goals Hill contributed to were double what any single team had accomplished against the Trojans up to that point in the season.

Hill said she doesn’t think about racking up stats but instead focuses on staying present – a principle that coach Adam Wright has repeated multiple times throughout the season.

“It’s not about the stats, it’s about what’s going on right then and there,” Hill said. “I’m just trying to relax and not put any extra pressure on myself that I don’t need. I don’t think stats should affect how you play at all – it’s just who you are and how you want to be and more importantly, how you want to be for your team in the moment.”

Additionally, Hill leads the nation in goals with 29 in 11 games, and has been named both MPSF/KAP7 Player of the Week and MPSF/KAP7 Newcomer of the Week after her performances in the first two tournaments of the season.

Wright said Hill’s start to the season has been crucial to UCLA’s success, but added that the team can’t rely only on her.

“(Hill) has done a phenomenal job to start the year, but we can’t just be as good as (Hill),” Wright said. “We’re a much more dynamic team when everyone else is involved, and that’s a much harder team to play against. And we want our opponents to remember that UCLA is a tough team to play and not a team that you only have to close down one, two, three players.”

The Bruins have had seven players other than Hill score 10 or more goals, including sophomore attacker Bella Baia, who had a hat trick in UCLA’s most recent official game against No. 12 Fresno State.

Since UCLA’s loss to then-No. 11 UCSB, the Bruins have shot an average of .500, which more than doubles their opponents’ .233 shooting mark calculated from the same point in the season.

Baia said she wasn’t even aware of UCLA’s efficiency, but that the stats illuminate the team’s selfless culture, which has been implemented by Wright, even with Hill’s nation-leading figures.

“I think it says that people are stepping up at the right opportunities,” Baia said. “It shows that we’re less of a selfish team considering we’re taking the right opportunities and putting them away. That’s what it seems like being selfless team and making the extra pass and I think that’s translating into the stats.”

Sports contributor

Boal is currently a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo beat.

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