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UCLA women’s water polo falls to USC, sinks to No. 3 seed in MPSF tournament

Freshman attacker Molly Renner lines up a shot. Renner tallied two goals Saturday in No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo’s loss to No. 1 USC. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)

Women's Water Polo

No. 3 UCLA7
No. 1 USC9

By Ricardo Garcia

April 17, 2022 8:45 p.m.

The Bruins could not close the gap in a battle with postseason seeding implications.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (22-3, 4-2 MPSF) fell to No. 1 USC (17-2, 6-0) by a score of 9-7 in its final game of the regular season. With the victory, the Trojans clinched the top seed at next weekend’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament and the Bruins fell to the No. 3 seed.

In front of USC’s Senior Day crowd at Uytengsu Aquatics Center, the Bruins battled the Trojans to a 2-2 tie at the end of the first quarter.

However, after USC took the lead 21 seconds into the second frame, UCLA trailed its crosstown rival for the rest of the contest.

With redshirt junior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips unavailable because of injury, sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Chiang drew her first collegiate start as the Bruins’ netminder opposite the Trojans’ Carolyne Stern.

Chiang said she found out about her starting assignment based on changes during practice.

“Usually, throughout the week, we’ll run our plays and he (coach Adam Wright) will tell who to pass,” Chiang said. “That was me this week.”

Against a Trojan offense averaging 15.6 goals per game on the season, Chiang registered eight saves – tying for a game high – along with two steals en route to limiting USC to nine goals.

On the offensive end, the Bruins converted seven of 23 shots from the field, including three of 11 in six-on-five situations, and missed two penalty shots. In its last four conference games to end the season, UCLA shot a combined 30.4% on the power play.

Wright said he was disappointed with the opportunities his team failed to convert.

“We talked about (how) being consistent matters,” Wright said. “(If) we take care of 50% on our first-half six-on-fives and score the penalty, it’s a completely different situation.”

Despite the loss, freshman attacker Molly Renner said she noticed how the Bruins’ chemistry has evolved since their last matchup versus the Trojans at the Triton Invitational on Feb. 13.

“In the beginning, I feel like we were all getting to know each other as a team,” Renner said. “Now, our team is really united, and I feel like we know how to pass it, where to pass it and when to release.”

Wright said the team has flashed its potential when playing to its strengths, but changes needed to happen quickly.

“We have glimpses, and we’ve shown them when we do things the right way,” Wright said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We absolutely can control the pace of the game.”

After the loss, UCLA will return to Uytengsu Aquatics Center to take on No. 6 seed Indiana on Friday to open its MPSF tournament play. The Bruins defeated the Hoosiers 12-6 on Jan. 29 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the Michigan Invitational.

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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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