While women’s water polo made waves with win over USC, it still has room to grow
Senior defender Brooke Maxson and No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo captured the title at the Triton Invitational with its first official win over USC since 2017. When the new rankings are revealed Wednesday, the Bruins have a shot at jumping into the top spot. (Ellie Tsai/Daily Bruin)
By Kyle Boal
Feb. 11, 2020 12:49 a.m.
The Bruins may have just beat the top team in the nation for the second time in two weeks, but they haven’t jumped up to No. 1 just yet.
No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (14-1, 1-0 MPSF) rallied to claim a 7-5 victory in its first official win since 2017 – and in coach Adam Wright’s tenure – against No. 1 USC (6-1). The new Collegiate Water Polo Association rankings don’t come out until Wednesday, but beating the top-ranked Trojans wasn’t enough for Wright to say his team is top of the ranking caliber.
But Wright did say he cares more about who ends up at No. 1 by year’s end.
“This was a great win, it’s a big win for our program, but it’s not the end-all, be-all,” Wright said. “There’s a lot of good teams out there. The one thing I like is that we’re trending in the right way, then in the end maybe we’ll have a chance to say (that we’re the best).”
UCLA had lost seven straight against USC entering Sunday’s matchup, but had beaten the Trojans 10-9 in an unofficial scrimmage earlier in the season.
Senior defender Brooke Maxson said it was exciting to come away with a win after falling in the last two years in the Triton Invitational’s title game to USC.
“It was great to end the tournament on a good note for us,” Maxson said. “(When) preparing, we are really just concentrating on ourselves and really focusing in on what we need to improve on.”
The Bruins were 12-of-18 during 6-on-5 scenarios to start the first three games in La Jolla, but were held to just 1-of-6 against USC in the finals, despite the win.
Wright said the team is looking to improve on power plays going forward, along with other aspects of the game.
“(We can improve on) our counterstructure, our defense,” Wright said. “Tonight, we actually had some really, really good defensive possessions, but I always believe we can be better there. For sure our 6-on-5 tonight – we can better in that area for sure.”
While the Bruins won all four games at the tournament, it was their lowest average point differential for any weekend all season.
However, UCLA held USC to just five points when 14 was the Trojans’ previous minimum. The two games prior, the Bruins’ opponents combined for 17 goals – the second most goals allowed in consecutive games this season by the Bruins.
Nonetheless, junior attacker Roxy Wheaton said the team is optimistic it will be able play for a championship if it continues to improve at all ends of the pool.
“We got a lot to work on still,” Wheaton said. “We got frontcourt defense, frontcourt offense, like you could name a million things – which is super exciting because we didn’t have our best game and we were still able to be successful. But since it’s early in the season, that’s actually really exciting to think about because we can still keep improving and become something pretty special.”