The Bruins swam away with a third-place finish following their first loss of the month.
No. 2 UCLA women’s water polo (17-2, 1-0 MPSF) handled No. 21 Pacific (2-11) 14-3 before defeating No. 10 Michigan (7-8) 7-2 the next day. UCLA later lost to No. 4 USC (11-1) 9-7 but went on to defeat No. 3 Hawai’i (11-2) 10-5 to capture third place at the Barbara Kalbus Invitational.
Prior to the tournament, the Bruins had won two games against the Trojans, both officially and in exhibition.
This time around, the team’s top-three goal leaders freshman utility Abbi Hill, senior attacker Emily Skelly and sophomore utility Katrina Drake combined for 2-of-16 shooting against the Trojans.
UCLA made a comeback attempt after falling behind, scoring four unanswered while holding USC scoreless in the fourth, but the Bruins were unable to overcome the 9-3 deficit they faced heading into the final quarter.
Junior defender Myna Simmons said the team got frustrated after missing shots early but kept fighting the whole game.
“I just think we were struggling a bit on the offensive side with goals not going when we wanted them to,” Simmons said. “On the defensive side, not getting the blocks that we wanted to. Overall, even though we went down, we just kept pushing through, (and did) not let them trample all over us.”
Coach Adam Wright said the team’s poor shooting was a combination of factors, but what is important is how the team responds to adversity.
“We did hit a lot of bars, and honestly, the USC goalie had a really good game,” Wright said. “It happens. That’s part of the journey of the season, and how we bounce back next game is crucial.”
Freshman goalkeeper Quinn Winter started the game against the Trojans after playing the previous five quarters in the tournament as well, registering 16 saves and allowing 12 goals cumulatively through her nine quarters of play.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Georgia Phillips praised Winter’s performance over the weekend, noting how well she led the team.
“She acted like she’s been doing this for years,” Phillips said. “I think she really led and carried the team this weekend even though she was probably pretty exhausted, which I know I would’ve been if I played that many quarters in a row.”
The last time UCLA faced USC, Phillips played the entire game. Phillips was sick earlier in the week and said Wright wanted her to rest before she played the entire game against Hawai’i.
Hawai’i held a 3-2 lead after the first quarter, but Phillips held the Rainbow Wahine scoreless for the next two quarters as the Bruins scored five in a row.
In the fourth quarter, freshman attacker Hannah Palmer accumulated two steals and two assists in one minute, 30 seconds, as she finished the match with six points.
Wright not only praised Palmer, but the whole team for its ability to bounce back against a top-three opponent after losing to USC the night before.
“I think there was a little bit of carry over from, obviously, we were disappointed from the day before,” Wright said. “The thing I really loved about the game today was we didn’t get off to our best start, but the way we finished was really really great, which just proves to the girls that no matter how things are going, you can turn things around.”
In the tournament opener against Pacific, the Bruins out stole the Tigers 17-6 and won the second half by a 10-2 mark as well as topping Michigan 14-10 in steals while shutting the Wolverines out in the second half of the tournament’s quarterfinals.
Phillips said the weekend taught the team a lot and they’re excited to see what the future holds.
“I think from now on we’re really going to make sure we never hold back,” Phillips said. “Keep reserve for later games and always play with grit and energy. We put a lot of trust in our coaches and I think we’re going to do that for the rest of the season.”