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UCLA women’s water polo looks toward final match of regular season against USC

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips and No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo will close out the regular season Saturday against No. 1 USC with the No. 1 seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament on the line.(Shane Yu/Daily Bruin)

Women's Water Polo

Saturday, 1 p.m.

Uytengsu Aquatics Center
Pac-12 Los Angeles

By Ricardo Garcia

April 15, 2022 2:15 p.m.

The Bruins are entering the final stretch of their season.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (22-2, 4-1 MPSF) will travel across town to battle against No. 1 USC (16-2, 5-0) in both teams’ final game of the regular season Saturday. The Trojans’ home pool of Uytengsu Aquatics Center will also serve as the host site of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament from April 22 to 24.

UCLA, USC and No. 2 Stanford enter the weekend with a chance to clinch the top overall seed in the conference tournament. The Trojans can secure the No. 1 seed outright with a victory Saturday, while the Bruins need a win and a Cardinal loss to earn an opening-round bye. Stanford owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over UCLA as a result of its 2-0 record in the season series between the teams.

The Bruins have won the only regular-season meeting between the two crosstown rivals, defeating the Trojans in the Triton Invitational championship game 11-10 on Feb. 13.

With his team having dropped two games since then, coach Adam Wright said UCLA has struggled with consistency down the stretch of the season.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Wright said. “We’re just trying to be focused from situation to situation, drill to drill.”

Despite falling to Stanford and needing overtime to overcome No. 9 Arizona State in its two most recent games, Wright said UCLA is still in a different position compared to last season thanks to its defense.

“Even when we’re not having a great day on our six-on-five, we found a way to win and that’s a credit to our defense,” Wright said. “But our defense is going to have to keep getting better to keep us in those games.”

In UCLA’s overtime win over Arizona State, the Bruins scored 11 goals on 33 attempts and limited the Sun Devils to 25 shot attempts in the victory.

Over its last two games, UCLA has shot 33% in six-on-five situations while limiting the opposition to 38.5% from the field.

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips said the team has been focusing on the task at hand instead of what’s ahead.

“We practice mindful presence before each game,” Phillips said. “We don’t overthink who we’re playing next, but taking each practice as an opportunity to get better for ourselves.”

Redshirt senior attacker Maddie Musselman said the team has improved since the team’s last meeting against USC.

“We’ve grown together as a group,” Musselman said. “The system we’re trying to play for and to play with is not easy all the time.”

Last postseason, the Bruins entered the MPSF tournament as the No. 2 seed, but settled for third place after falling to the third-seeded Cardinal in the semifinals and defeating the fifth-seeded Sun Devils in the third-place game.

Even with a chance to earn the No. 1 seed at the MPSF tournament, Musselman said it doesn’t matter where the team stands.

“I would play anyone on any given day,” Musselman said. “At the end of the day, whether we’re ranked first or second or third, we’ll be ready to go no matter what. What matters most is at the end of the year being ranked No. 1.”

The opening sprint between the Bruins and Trojans is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

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Ricardo Garcia | Sports reporter
Garcia is currently a reporter on the women's water polo beat. He was previously a contributor on the swim & dive, track & field and men's water polo beats.
Garcia is currently a reporter on the women's water polo beat. He was previously a contributor on the swim & dive, track & field and men's water polo beats.
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