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Women’s water polo splits Arizona State games with triple-overtime victory

With 12 seconds remaining in the third overtime period, sophomore attacker Hannah Palmer netted a shot to give UCLA women’s water polo the win on Sunday over Arizona State after falling to the Sun Devils the day prior. (Elise Tsai/Daily Bruin staff)

women's water polo


No. 2 UCLA6
No. 5 Arizona State8
No. 2 UCLA11
No. 5 Arizona State10

By Sam Settleman

April 12, 2021 11:40 a.m.

Hannah Palmer’s golden goal saved the Bruins from a winless weekend.

No. 2 UCLA women’s water polo (8-2, 6-2 MPSF) and No. 5 Arizona State (12-7, 6-4 MPSF) were knotted at 10 goals apiece in a sudden-death overtime period at Mona Plummer Aquatic Center on Sunday before the sophomore attacker netted her third goal of the game and fourth of the weekend to give the blue and gold an 11-10 victory. The Bruins were upset by the Sun Devils on Saturday 8-6 behind their lowest scoring game since 2019.

After falling to ASU for the first time since 2013 and only the second time in program history, Palmer said the team knew it had to rebound from Saturday’s loss.

“We really wanted this one after yesterday’s tough loss,” Palmer said. “Obviously, we knew we were the better team and we didn’t put them away the way we wanted to yesterday.”

UCLA opened the weekend with a scoreless first seven minutes after shooting 0-for-6 from the field. While the Bruins were able to overcome the slow start and take an early 2-1 lead in the second quarter, the Sun Devils subsequently secured a 5-2 lead behind a 4-0 run, including converting two of three penalty shots.

Coach Adam Wright said allowing three penalty shots in fewer than five minutes was unacceptable. ASU finished the opening game 3-of-4 from the five-meter.

“You can’t do that – and it’s really disappointing,” Wright said. “We’ve worked hard all week, and I felt pretty good about where we were coming into this. For some reason, we can’t catch ourselves from a presence standpoint in key moments on defense and it’s costing us dearly.”

After a penalty-ridden first half with six exclusions – including three penalty fouls – the Bruins found themselves in a 5-3 hole at the half to a Sun Devil offense that was held scoreless in the first three quarters a weekend ago and scored just 10 goals in two losses to No. 4 California.

UCLA would give up three goals the rest of the way, but a season-low 23% shooting effort stymied the Bruins’ comeback attempt.

“Quite frankly, we don’t deserve to win a game like that,” Wright said. “There’s some times where you end up in a situation where you have a chance to win it. Today, we didn’t. But honestly, you can’t have those kinds of lapses and think that you have a chance to be the best team in the country. Our opportunities are limited and we got to start maximizing them because (Saturday) we absolutely did not do that.”

The first quarter scoring drought lasted even longer Sunday as UCLA was held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time in over a year. Junior attacker Val Ayala – who shot 1-of-13 from the pool on the weekend – had three shots ricochet off of the post in the final minutes of a quarter in which the Bruins shot 0-for-8 from the field.

UCLA didn’t fare any better in the second quarter, suffering its sixth consecutive winless quarter to ASU over the two-day span en route to a 5-2 halftime deficit behind 12% shooting.

After netting her first goal of the season in the stanza, sophomore attacker Fiona Kuesis said the Bruins were able to refocus at the break.

“We had a big talk last night about what we’ve gone through over the last year, getting our season cut short – and that was really reminded at half,” Kuesis said. “I think that’s when we really came out and decided we were going to get this done for each other.”

Kuesis – who scored more goals Sunday than she did in the entirety of her freshman season – was one of six players to score in the third quarter for UCLA.

Palmer said the Bruins fed off the sophomore’s energy.

“She has a lot of energy that I think our team really needs,” Palmer said. “She’s fast. She’s quick. It’s good to have just because when you see her working as hard as she is and she’s going as fast as she can, it just makes everyone else want to go as fast as they can and be on the same level as her.”

But four quarters of play proved to be not enough to settle the contest, as the Bruins and Sun Devils would play three overtime periods before a victor emerged.

With 12 seconds left in a sudden-death seventh period, Palmer forced a skip shot on goal that dented the twine for the team’s first walk-off win since 2016.

Behind a hat trick and four assists on the day, Palmer led her team in points for the fourth consecutive weekend.

“She’s definitely stepped up in a major way,” said junior utility Katrina Drake. “Her energy definitely is what is giving the team a big boost in times of need.”

There will be no rest days for the Bruins, who will head to Bloomington, Indiana, for a two-game series with No. 15 Indiana on Monday and Tuesday to round out the four-game road trip.

“We’re going to refocus and recenter – we’re really good at that,” Kuesis said. “We’re just going to take the time to move past this weekend and move forward and get set and get ready for Indiana tomorrow.”

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Sam Settleman | Assistant Sports editor
Settleman is currently an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, women's water polo and men's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman is currently an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, women's water polo and men's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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