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Women’s water polo to face Indiana with chance at 1st conference title since 2017

Junior attacker Hannah Palmer fends off a defender in a game against USC. Palmer and UCLA women’s water polo are set to enter the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament as the No. 3 seed, taking on No. 6 seed Indiana on Friday. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)

Women's Water Polo


Indiana
Friday, 12:45 p.m.

Uytengsu Aquatics Center
MPSF TV

By Kyle Boal

April 21, 2022 4:05 p.m.

The Bruins have accomplished many feats under coach Adam Wright.

But winning a conference title is not one of them.

No. 3 seed UCLA women’s water polo (22-3, 4-2 MPSF) will open postseason play against No. 6 seed Indiana (14-14, 1-5) in the first round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament on Friday with a chance to claim Wright’s first conference title with the women’s program. No. 1 seed USC has won the title in every contested tournament since the three-time Olympian coach joined the Bruin women’s program in 2018.

Junior attacker Hannah Palmer said her teammates are as close this season as they’ve ever been heading into the postseason.

“If you were to ask anyone on the team, we would all agree that there’s just a special energy amongst the team,” Palmer said. “We’re in a really good place. We have great team chemistry.”

Earning career highs in every statistical category in the regular season, senior defender Bella Wentzel said a tightknit culture creates both additional motivation and enjoyment in approaching sport.

“If you love your teammates and want to win, not only for yourself and your coach but for your teammates, it makes it so much more fun to play,” Wentzel said. “Just having a sense of trust, not only in the pool but out of the pool, I think that we’re all doing everything we can to win for each other.”

The Bruins are 16-0 all-time over the Hoosiers. UCLA defeated Indiana 12-6 earlier this season at the Michigan Invitational on Jan. 29 behind a 5-0 third quarter.

If it wins Friday, the blue and gold would advance to face the winner of No. 2 seed Stanford versus No. 7 seed San Jose State on Saturday. The Bruins lost both of their regular-season meetings with the Cardinal.

With her team entering the tournament off a 9-7 loss to the top-seeded Trojans in the regular-season finale, Palmer said the Bruins comfort in knowing their losses were self-inflicted.

“All of our losses were because of things that we did to ourselves, not what the other team was doing to us,” Palmer said. “Knowing that and having that under our belts, I think we are very confident going into the weekend.”

Wentzel said in order to potentially overcome Stanford this weekend, UCLA will need to impose the consistency it displays in practice for all four quarters.

“We need to be in control of the game and play into our hands and not into their hands,” Wentzel said. “It’s kind of just staying present and in the exact moment, not either looking too far in the future or dwelling on past mistakes.”

The Bruins have placed third or fourth at every conference tournament since 2018. A win Saturday, in all likelihood, would send UCLA to its first MPSF championship game under Wright.

Freshman attacker Molly Renner said she is looking forward to demonstrating the Bruins’ full firepower come Friday.

“It feels like we haven’t shown our true potential,” Renner said. “I’m honestly really excited just to have a tournament to show what we can do and what we’ve been working on this whole entire year.”

First sprint is at 12:45 p.m. at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

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Kyle Boal | Sports senior staff
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women's water polo beat. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women's water polo beat. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
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