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Trojans trample Bruins in UCLA women’s water polo’s 3rd loss of season to rivals

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips goes for a save on a penalty shot. Despite allowing 14 goals, Phillips recorded 10 saves and two steals over the course of the contest. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Women’s Water Polo

No. 1 USC14
No. 3 UCLA9

By Cole Lizar

April 22, 2023 3:03 p.m.

This post was updated April 23 at 9:55 p.m.

With the chance to break a three-game losing streak to the Trojans, the Bruins fell short once again in what has seemingly become a one-sided rivalry.

For the third time this year and fourth in a row dating back to 2022, No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (19-5, 4-2 MPSF) could not overcome No. 1 USC (25-1, 6-0). The Bruins were defeated 14-9 at Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday.

USC driver Paige Hauschild tormented the Bruins for all four quarters. The Olympic gold medalist and three time All-American notched three goals and six assists over the course of the game.

Graduate student utility Katrina Drake said Hauschild’s counterpart, 2-meter Tilly Kearns, was able to take advantage of the weaknesses in the Bruins’ defense.

“They really thrive by forcing the ball to the center of the pool,” Drake said. “They have a really good center (Kearns), so for us, it’s important to make sure that we know where the ball is at all times and knowing if they’re open behind us.”

Despite allowing 14 shots to find the back of the net, UCLA made a strong defensive performance against the best team in the country. The Bruins’ defensive backbone – redshirt senior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips – blocked 10 shots, one fewer than USC’s entire team, and recorded two steals.

Coach Adam Wright said Phillips’ performance in the goal kept the team afloat when the Trojans were making a strong offensive effort.

“Even all the way down in the fourth quarter, we’re presenting opportunities where we’re inching ourselves back in the game because she’s making saves,” Wright said. “You have to put the ball in the goal if you’re going to get back in the game, but she affords us that opportunity.”

Freshman utility Anna Pearson added that Phillips’ presence in the goal encouraged the rest of the team to play its best defense.

“Just having that confidence behind us knowing that we have her pushes us to make blocks,” Pearson said. “Having that behind us makes us better.”

In their last matchup against the Trojans, the Bruins went down by three early in the game. The blue and gold were able to contain its opponent early, only facing a single point deficit by the end of the first stanza, but the lead the Trojans built at the end of the first quarter carried through to the end of the contest.

Graduate student utility Katrina Drake rears back with the ball in the face of a USC defender. Drake paced the Bruins with a hat trick in Saturday’s game. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Behind a hat trick from Drake, UCLA tallied nine points, enough to beat most of its other opponents this season. But USC’s 14 points meant a different story Saturday.

Six-on-five performance proved to be an Achilles heel for both teams, with only 3-of-13 opportunities being converted throughout the entire game.

“Last week, we were great on six-on-five,” Wright said. “This week, we were a little bit hesitant, and that’s a big thing. If we don’t have confidence going forward, it becomes hard to execute.”

By the end of the first half, the Bruins were leading or tied in a few important statistical categories: steals, blocks and drawn exclusions. Yet UCLA had only managed to convert three of its shot attempts, leading to a four-point deficit it couldn’t overcome by the time the halftime buzzer rang.

With the regular season now in the rearview, the Bruins will prepare for the MPSF tournament and a potential NCAA championships berth.

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Cole Lizar | Sports contributor
Lizar is currently a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo beat.
Lizar is currently a Sports contributor on the women's water polo beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo beat.
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