Friday, April 10

Women’s water polo claims victory at Triton Invitational for the first time

Junior attacker Roxy Wheaton was one of 13 Bruins to score in the opening match of the Triton Invitational. No. 3 UCLA women's water polo took down three ranked teams on its way to its first championship win in La Jolla. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's water polo

No. 3 UCLA11
No. 8 Arizona State8
No. 3 UCLA7
No. 1 USC5

The Bruins took gold at the Triton Invitational for the first time ever.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (14-1, 1-0 MPSF) defeated Pomona-Pitzer (1-5) 21-2 before beating No. 19 Indiana (3-5) 12-9 in the quarterfinals Saturday. The team then outlasted No. 8 Arizona State (9-2) 11-8 and dethroned No. 1 USC (6-1) 7-5 for the first time since 2017 in the finals Sunday.

The championship game marked the first victory for the Bruins over the Trojans during coach Adam Wright’s time at the helm.

Wright said the win was good, not only for the history behind it, but because the team played well after putting work in at practice.

“The nice part is that it was a good win,” Wright said. “We have a lot to build off of there, but we’ve been working a long time, and I think it’s a credit to the girls staying the course and working every day. It’s a great win for the program for sure.”

UCLA had beaten USC 10-9 in an exhibition earlier in the season. Whereas the Trojans had scored 14 or more in every game leading up to the match with the Bruins, UCLA held them to just five goals in the tournament’s championship game.

Senior defender Brooke Maxson said the team worked on defense leading up into the tournament.

“Defense for us is really big,” Maxson said. “It gets us going, getting a stop and getting good offense on a positive note. It’s very important to us and we’ve been working on it a lot.”

The Bruins won by an average margin of 13-6, with the biggest point differential being 19 in the weekend-opener against the Sagehens.

Thirteen players scored in the first game, none of which were leading goal-scorer freshman utility Abbi Hill. Still, Hill led the team in goals over the course of the weekend with seven over the final three matches.

Junior attacker Roxy Wheaton said the team’s ability to score 21 goals without their leading scorer is a testament to the players’ confidence in one another.

“We’re never really looking to one player,” Wheaton said. “Obviously, we’re all confident (and) capable that we can put it away. So we work as a group, and whoever opens up, opens up, and we’re confident they can put it away.”

The Bruins’ games against the Hoosiers and Sun Devils were decided by three points, and in both games, UCLA had a standout quarter frame. Against Indiana, it was a 4-1 second quarter, while in the Arizona State contest, it was a 5-1 third period.

Wright said the weekend sweep illustrates an upward trend, and if the team continues to progress, a championship is achievable this year.

“We’ve absolutely been trending the right way since we began in Santa Barbara,” Wright said. “We’re not close (to) where we want to ultimately end up, but if we keep going, then we’ll have our chances in the end for sure.”

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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