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Women’s water polo’s 2 season losses highlight struggle in first-half gameplay

Junior defender Myna Simmons has 11 goals this season for UCLA women’s water polo, including two in a win over Hawai’i in the Barbara Kalbus Invitational. (Ellie Tsai/Daily Bruin)

By Henry Mahnke

Feb. 25, 2020 12:57 a.m.

First-half deficits have hurt the Bruins so far this season.

No. 2 UCLA women’s water polo (17-2, 1-0 MPSF) has only lost twice this season, but it has often found itself in hot water when trailing at halftime.

In both of those losses, the Bruins struggled to produce goals in the first half and were unable to make up for these deficits later in the game.

Against then-No. 11 UC Santa Barbara, UCLA allowed seven goals in the first half, and trailed by three goals going into the final two frames.

The Bruins brought the game to a one-goal contest as time wound down in the fourth period. However, the late-game push wasn’t enough to maintain the Bruins’ then-undefeated record.

Coach Adam Wright said at the time his players’ inexperience was part of the problem, but that his team needed to grow from the experience.

“(For) a lot of these players, this is their first college game or college game day,” Wright said. “So … (there are) nerves, but we need to understand we’re in control of those things, and if we can’t be present, then things become difficult.”

UCLA’s most recent loss to No. 4 USC in the Barbara Kalbus Invitational is the latest match in which the Bruins have found themselves trailing at half, after they scored just twice compared to the Trojans’ seven goals.

Similar to its first loss, UCLA made the game close in the second half. The Bruins shut out the Trojans in the fourth period and scored four goals before losing 9-7.

This was the Bruins’ only loss of the four games they played this weekend, and it was also the only game in which UCLA trailed at the half.

Junior defender Myna Simmons said the Bruins’ losses have helped the team gain valuable experience.

“This weekend definitely showed us that we can bounce back from anything,” Simmons said. “Not (letting) the past affect what we have going for us in the future, and really just knowing that we can win overall. Knowing that if we do the little things right, we will be successful in the end.”

Even if the Bruins do sometimes put themselves behind in the first half, the team has still proven capable of winning games after a slow first quarter.

Against No. 3 Hawai’i, UCLA struggled in the first quarter, trailing 3-2 as the period ended. However, the team was able to rally and beat the Rainbow Warriors 10-5.

Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Georgia Phillips had six saves after playing the whole game against Hawai’i. She said the Bruins’ mentality helped them stay calm and mount the comeback.

“I think we’re just a really consistent team in how we train and play,” Phillips said. “So (Wright) basically told us to do what we know we can do. We determined our energy, and we determined our pace. With that on our minds, we were just able to keep things under control and really push back after the first quarter.”

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Henry Mahnke | Sports contributor
Mahnke is currently a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat.
Mahnke is currently a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat.
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