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Despite hopeful game plays, UCLA women’s water polo falls to the Cardinal

Graduate student attacker Val Ayala rises up to make a pass. Ayala collected three goals across the weekend’s games. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's Water Polo


No. 4 UCLA13
No. 1 StanfordScore
No. 1 UCLA17
No. 20 San Jose State7

By Felicia Keller

March 13, 2023 2:30 p.m.

An air of hopeful anticipation ran through the boisterous Bruin faithful at Avery Aquatic Center as the blue and gold entered the final quarter tied with the undefeated Cardinal.

But the energy quickly dissipated as the home team went on a 5-0 run to silence the Bruins and hand them their fourth loss of the season.

No. 4 UCLA women’s water polo (13-4, MPSF 2-1) fell to No. 1 Stanford (14-0, 2-0) on Saturday by a 18-13 final result at Avery Aquatic Center, before heading to the South Bay to beat No. 20 San Jose State (12-12, 0-1) by a score of 17-7 on Sunday.

The Bruins held their own with the Cardinal, keeping the game tied until the final six minutes in which UCLA missed seven shots while Stanford found the back of the net five times.

Coach Adam Wright said he knows the team has to be better at playing a complete game.

“We have to execute in those moments,” Wright said. “We’re executing it in training and why that’s not coming here in the last six minutes of the game, that’s upstairs, and that’s a piece that we’ve got to continue to work on.”

The Bruins had two weeks to focus on details from their last two games, a pair of losses to No. 2 USC and No. 3 California.

Despite the sobering ending to the game, Wright said there were a lot of positives and a lot to be learned from the Stanford game.

“As disappointing as it is to give up 18 goals, this was a much better UCLA team today than how we finished out two weeks ago, as far as playing our game,” Wright said.

The Bruins mounted a two-goal burst in the final minutes of the second quarter to start the second half tied with the Cardinal.

Freshman utility Sienna Green – who scored one goal against the Cardinal and led the team with four against the Spartans – said the blue and gold were disappointed as a group after the loss.

“We had a pretty serious conversation about our standard and how we’re going to maintain that going forward,” said Green. “But we’re all really excited because we know that we can improve.”

Wright added that consistency is the next step, as he feels his team made good progress on both defending and attacking power plays.

Graduate student center Ava Johnson, who spent much of the first half of the season watching games on the pool deck with an injury, echoed Wright’s positivity on the game as a whole.

“We just need to be able to finish and execute,” Johnson said. “But that was one of the best games we’ve played so far this season, not the fourth quarter, but the first three quarters.”

Bouncing back from the the loss after a slower start to the first quarter against the Spartans with a 2-1 score heading into the second stanza, the Bruins picked up the pace to finish the contest on a 17-7 run.

The blue and gold used its late lead as an opportunity to practice swapping the goalie for an extra attacker. The team scored seven goals in the final quarter as they experimented with different lineups.

Wright said the Bruins will look to improve at the Loyola Marymount Invitational next weekend.

“We’ll learn from that and if we want to have a chance to be the best, we’ve got to get better,” Wright said. “That’s the exciting part is we took the first step and got a lot better from where we were last week, two weeks ago.”

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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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