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No. 2 UCLA women’s water polo sees victory against California, Pacific

Sophomore center Ava Johnson scored six goals over the weekend as No. 2 UCLA women’s water polo notched road wins over No. 8 California and No. 23 Pacific. (Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Women's water polo

No. 2 UCLA11
No. 8 California5
No. 2 UCLA13
No. 23 Pacific8

By Jessica Lin

March 8, 2020 9:49 p.m.

The Bruins won both of their NorCal matches, but a last-quarter push by the Tigers almost derailed their sweep.

No. 2 UCLA women’s water polo (19-2, 2-0 MPSF) secured two wins over the weekend, with a score of 11-5 over No. 8 California (11-7, 0-2) Saturday and 13-8 against No. 23 Pacific (3-13, 1-1 GCC) on Sunday.

Saturday’s match was the first meeting between California and UCLA this season. Sophomore center Ava Johnson said that though the Bruins weren’t completely sure what to expect, they were not intimidated.

“We had to come out with a go-get-them mentality and show them everything we had,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t really lapse in any way because we weren’t sure how it would turn out.”

UCLA started off slow in the first 15 minutes, with California matching two UCLA goals with two of its own. The Bruins found their stride after the first frame, outscoring the Bears by two goals in each quarter after that.

Four different Bruins each scored twice, including Johnson, sophomore utility Katrina Drake, sophomore attacker Val Ayala and junior attacker Roxy Wheaton.

On the defensive side, UCLA held California to a .185 shooting percentage and did not allow the Bears to convert any of their 10 power play opportunities. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Georgia Phillips played the entire match, recording eight saves.

UCLA continued its defensive intensity through the first half of the match against Pacific. While the Bruins put away eight goals, they only allowed one goal .

Johnson tied her career-high of four goals against the Tigers alongside an assist, and credited her achievement to her teammates and some luck.

“(I had the) confidence going into the game, knowing that (my) teammates are going to do everything they can to get my position (as) center, the ball.” Johnson said. “Obviously, I was open and in a good position, but that could have been anyone.”

However, the Tigers gained momentum after halftime, scoring two goals in the third quarter before matching the Bruins goal for goal in the fourth, with each team scoring five times.

“We dropped our presence and let them get back into the game,” Johnson said. “We definitely don’t want to do that. Our coach and even our team were pretty let down for allowing that to happen.”

Both teams had experience against each other, as this was the third meeting of the season. The Bruins won all three matches, but the Tigers were most successful in this match with eight goals.

“We knew their strengths, their weaknesses,” Johnson said. “I think that definitely played into their hands a little bit because they knew us as well.”

As a veteran of the team, junior attacker Lexi Liebowitz said she has felt the pressure of these situations before and knows how to stay focused on the future instead of the past.

“We just need to forget about mistakes and keep moving forward,” Liebowitz said. “(Continue) playing with the same high energy and try to stay consistent.”

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Jessica Lin | Sports contributor
Lin was previously a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat.
Lin was previously a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat.
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