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Capping off season, UCLA women’s water polo readies to face USC

Graduate student utility Katrina Drake looks past a defender as she hoists the ball above the water. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Lexi Grimes

April 21, 2023 3:05 p.m.

The Bruins saved the best for last this year.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (19-4, 4-1 MPSF) will face off against No. 1 USC (24-1, 5-0) at home Saturday to cap off its regular-season slate. This will be the third time this season that the Bruins and Trojans will compete against each other, with the latter securing the win in both neutral-site contests.

The first time the pair met this season was Feb. 5 at the Triton Invitational, where UCLA fell to USC in an 8-10 overtime thriller. The second time the two teams faced off was Feb. 25 at the Barbara Kalbus Invitational. The Trojans once again emerged victorious with a 13-10 win over the Bruins.

Coach Adam Wright said both of the previous games against USC were extremely competitive, and the difference between winning and losing Saturday will come down to finishing.

“The first time we played them we were up the whole way, and then they brought the game to overtime and won,” Wright said. “The second time, our six-on-five was really poor and we still played with them pretty tough. When we create opportunities we have to finish them. And that doesn’t mean we have to do it 100% of the time, but we have to do a better job capitalizing a higher percentage of those opportunities.”

Across eight total quarters between the two teams, UCLA has held the lead for just the first three, trailing for the entirety of the second contest against USC.

Freshman attack Taylor Smith had a slightly different perspective on the upcoming game. Smith said UCLA’s growth in the two months since last facing USC will be a difference-maker.

“The last two times we played them the games were really close and we were almost there,” Smith said. “We were not nearly as close to the team we are today, so playing them now that it’s towards the end of season, I think the game can go very differently. I’m super excited to get out there and show what we’ve been practicing these past few weeks.”

The Bruins are currently on a seven-game winning streak and most recently defeated No. 6 California by a score of 11-6. However, the Trojans are on a 12-game winning streak of their own, and recently beat No. 2 Stanford by a score of 17-12.

Graduate student utility Katrina Drake said UCLA has a lot of optimism heading into Saturday’s contest.

“We’re using this as an opportunity to gain more confidence and kind of just build on what we have going and continue on the trajectory that we’ve been on,” Drake said. “It has been really positive and really full of growth lately, so if we keep that going into the next few weeks, into the tournaments, I think we’ll set ourselves up for success.”

UCLA and USC will face off at 12 p.m. at Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday.

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Lexi Grimes | Sports reporter
Grimes is currently a Sports reporter on the men's soccer beat. She was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball, men's soccer and women's volleyball beats.
Grimes is currently a Sports reporter on the men's soccer beat. She was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball, men's soccer and women's volleyball beats.
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