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UCLA women’s water polo falls to Stanford in MPSF tournament semifinal matchup

Recording a hat trick on six shots, sophomore utility Abbi Hill led UCLA women’s water polo in scoring Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Stanford. (Keaton Larson/Daily Bruin)

women’s water polo

No. 3 seed Stanford13
No. 2 seed UCLA8

By Sam Settleman

May 1, 2021 9:57 p.m.

The Bruins have been relegated to the third place game for the third consecutive time.

No. 2 seed UCLA women’s water polo (12-4, 9-3 MPSF) fell to No. 3 seed Stanford (12-4, 8-4) 13-8 at Mona Plummer Aquatic Center on Saturday. Coach Adam Wright and the players were not made available for comment after the game.

The Mountain Sports Pacific Federation tournament drought will continue for the Bruins, who last played in the championship game in 2017, beating the Cardinal 6-3.

UCLA and Stanford each claimed a win against each other in a doubleheader earlier this season, with the Bruins recording their first win over the Cardinal since 2017 in the second game.

Similar to Friday’s 20-5 victory over No. 7 seed San Jose State, UCLA found itself deadlocked in a 2-2 tie in the first quarter, but instead of replicating their 8-1 run against the Spartans, the Bruins gave up a 5-1 run to the Cardinal to close out the half.

UCLA put up nine shots in the first half, falling behind 7-3 despite nearly equaling Stanford’s shooting percentage. The Bruins added seven first-half exclusions, similar to their 12-11 loss to the Cardinal earlier in the season in which they were excluded 13 times.

Despite conceding only two exclusions in the second half, UCLA failed to capitalize on any of Stanford’s 13 exclusions on the afternoon, going 0-of-13 in its 6-on-5 opportunities. In total, the Bruins mustered 22 shots – one shy of their season low – and nearly halved their shooting effort of over 60% from the previous day.

Only three players registered more than two shots for UCLA. Sophomore attacker Hannah Palmer added two goals in the fourth period with the Bruins still trailing by multiple goals, but it was sophomore utility Abbi Hill who gave her team a chance early in the game, recording a hat trick for the second consecutive day.

Senior defender Brooke Maxson scored a season-high-tying two goals in the loss, joining junior center Ava Johnson as the only other players to find the back of the net. After 11 different players scored in UCLA’s win Friday, just four Bruins tallied a goal Saturday.

Offense did not prove to be Saturday’s only shortcoming as UCLA allowed a season-high 13 goals to Stanford. The Bruins’ previous season high came in their earlier loss to the Cardinal.

Stanford was led by a four-goal outing from attacker Jewel Roemer who was named MPSF Newcomer of the Year and earned All-MPSF Second Team honors Thursday. Attacker Hannah Constandse added a hat trick and two assists to lead the Cardinal in points.

UCLA ultimately shrunk the four-goal halftime deficit to two midway through the third period with a chance to cut the lead to one goal, but Stanford’s defense held strong, tallying one of its five steals on the day. The Bruins would finish with 13 total turnovers, posting just two steals themselves.

Both previous games this season between the two programs were decided in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. In the most recent matchup, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Georgia Phillips made a flurry of saves on Stanford’s final possession to secure the 11-10 victory for UCLA.

This time around, the game was not decided in the final minutes as the Cardinal added two goals in the final 15 seconds with the Bruins’ net vacated, including a shot from across the pool that floated in as the buzzer sounded.

Junior utility Katrina Drake put on the goalkeeper cap as UCLA made one final attempt at a comeback, creating multiple 7-on-6 opportunities. The Bruins would score on one of those opportunities, but the Cardinal extended the lead to five with their pair of empty-net goals.

With a third place game on the docket Sunday, UCLA will face No. 5 seed Arizona State at 11:30 a.m. The Bruins and Sun Devils are 1-1 head-to-head this season.

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Sam Settleman | Sports contributor
Settleman is currently a Sports contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman is currently a Sports contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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