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UCLA women’s water polo to set newer players against California Cup competition

Graduate student attacker Val Ayala lifts the ball out of the water as she readies to throw. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

Women's Water Polo


No. 4 California
Saturday, 7:45 a.m.

Berkeley
No TV info
No. 11 UC Davis
Saturday, 3:15 p.m.

Berkeley
No TV info
No. 9 Fresno State
Sunday, 8:30 a.m.

Berkeley
No TV info
No. 1 Stanford
Sunday, 3:15 p.m.

Berkeley
No TV info

By Felicia Keller

Jan. 26, 2023 6:22 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 27 at 12:08 a.m.

As the season gets rolling, the Bruins have the chance to get their young players some experience against top competition.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (5-0, 1-0 MPSF) will play four matches over the weekend at the California Cup in Berkeley. The blue and gold will face No. 11 UC Davis and No. 9 Fresno State (0-4) in official games and will also have the chance to square off against No. 1 Stanford and No. 4 California (3-0) in a pair of exhibition contests.

The exhibition games will give the Bruins the opportunity to incorporate more players into their rotations, according to coach Adam Wright.

“This is an opportunity to get some of our players that haven’t had as much experience or that are in their first year to get minutes because they’re going to be important,” Wright said. “We have a great group of younger players, both freshmen and sophomores, and we want to put them in those positions to gain valuable experience.”

The Bruins’ roster boasts seven freshmen and five sophomores. The freshmen had a strong weekend at the UC Santa Barbara Winter Invitational, with utility Sienna Green recording a hat trick against UC San Diego and attacker Taylor Smith earning Mountain Pacific Sports Federation/S&R Sport Newcomer of the Week honors.

Senior attacker Hannah Palmer said she has been helping the freshmen get adjusted to the team’s atmosphere and playing style.

“Playing-wise, they’re all really intelligent players and they’re picking up our system of play very fast,” Palmer said. “So you have to help them get it down once, and they pretty much are able to get it down, so I think they’re transitioning into our team very well.”

For Davis and Stanford, this weekend will mark their first official competition of the season. Fresno State enters the weekend having lost all of its games so far to teams ranked in the top seven.

With four games in two days, graduate student attacker Val Ayala said the weekend presents a good opportunity for the Bruins to get mentally prepared for the season.

“It’s definitely tough and it kind of tests our team’s ability to bounce back after a game,” Ayala said. “There’s a quick turnaround where you’ve got to move on to the next game and you can’t get caught up in what happened before.”

Learning from last week’s season openers in which UCLA got off to a 5-0 start, Palmer said the Bruins are looking to improve some of their communication, especially in the fourth quarter.

“Sometimes when we’re tired, we tend to just kind of close our mouths and do what we see, and we don’t necessarily talk out what we see,” Palmer said. “So I think this weekend, we definitely want to try to talk more things out and communicate more.”

UCLA will have the chance to build on its opening-weekend success when it takes on Cal on Saturday morning.

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Felicia Keller
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
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