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Bruins in Paris

Loss to Stanford dashes UCLA women’s water polo’s hopes for MPSF title

Freshman utility Anna Pearson shoots the ball from between two Stanford defenders. Pearson’s hat trick paced the Bruins as she was the only member of the team to record multiple goals. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

Women’s Water Polo


No. 3 seed UCLA9
No. 2 seed Stanford11

By Felicia Keller

April 29, 2023 3:33 p.m.

This post was updated April 30 at 9:05 p.m.

SAN JOSE – A slow second quarter proved to be the Bruins’ downfall as they missed out on a trip to the MPSF tournament final. 

No. 3 seed UCLA women’s water polo (20-6, 4-2 MPSF) fell to No. 2 seed Stanford (20-1, 5-1) in the conference semifinals 11-9 on Saturday. The loss marks the Bruins’ second of the season to the Cardinal, who defeated UCLA by five in March’s matchup. The Bruins will play in the third-place match on Sunday to round out the tournament. 

In a busy first quarter – with a combined seven goals and five power plays – the Bruins narrowly edged the Cardinal to enter the second quarter up by one. Freshman utility Anna Pearson notched two goals in a row for the Bruins, while redshirt senior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips made five blocks.  

“We really felt the excitement of the game and were believing in everything we practice,” Phillips said. “I think that’s what helped us really come out strong in the first quarter.”

Stanford took its first lead of the game in the second quarter with three straight goals, taking advantage of UCLA fouls, as it first scored on the counterattack off an offensive foul and then again on a power play. 

A one-goal second period left the Bruins trailing by two heading into the second half. With four offensive fouls in the first quarter, the Bruins only managed to get 14 shots off through the first two periods, compared to the Cardinal’s 21. 

Graduate student attacker Val Ayala said the team fell short in its execution on offense.

“We need to attack the goal. We didn’t really make the goalie work,” Ayala said. “We are all great attackers, we have a game plan, and we know exactly what to do, but it’s just a matter of executing that.”

The second stanza proved to be the difference maker for UCLA – who led or paced Stanford over the other three – but dropped four to the Cardinal in the quarter.

Pearson picked up a goal in the first minute of the third to complete her hat trick, putting the Bruins back by just one. However, one was as close as UCLA would get throughout the remainder of the contest.

Senior attacker Hannah Palmer fends off a Stanford defender. Palmer led UCLA with three assists in Saturday’s contest. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

While getting big blocks from Ayala and later Phillips on the penalty shot, the Bruins kept the aggregate score in the third quarter even, still leaving them down by two heading into the final stanza. 

The Bruins had a seven-minute scoring drought that began in the third and lasted until more than halfway through the fourth. Throughout the final three periods, the Bruins scored just one goal more than they tallied in the first quarter.

“Not shooting before 10 seconds left on the clock and making sure we use all the time to tire out the goalie and to spread out our offense, that would make a big difference in terms of our outside shots,” said assistant coach Amanda Longan.

Phillips stayed strong throughout the match, blocking a penalty and 10 total shots in addition to three steals. With a 47.6% save percentage – compared to Stanford goalkeeper Maya Avital’s 30.8% – Phillips was crucial to the Bruins’ effort that allowed seven fewer goals than their last matchup with the Cardinal.

Longan said the coaching staff intends to learn from today’s game as the team moves forward.

“The message tonight is going to be to recognize where you could be with this team and the chances you did have and opportunities that were missed,” Longan said. “Moving into tomorrow and what’s ahead, wanting to be as consistent as you possibly can because that makes a difference in not letting teams go for runs or having lows.”

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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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