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Women’s water polo emphasizes calm team mentality as it enters the NCAA tournament

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips watches an opposing attacker while her teammate defends against the offensive play. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Women's Water Polo

UC Irvine
Friday, 2 p.m.

Stockton, CA
No TV info

By Lexi Grimes

May 11, 2023 1:49 p.m.

This post was updated May 11 at 10:00 p.m.

The Bruins are NCAA tournament-bound in search of their first title in 14 years.

No. 4 seed UCLA women’s water polo (20-7, 4-2 MPSF) will begin tournament play Friday afternoon with a matchup against UC Irvine (20-6, 7-0 Big West). The two teams already met earlier this season, with the Bruins recording a 12-9 victory over the Anteaters. However, while UCLA has lost three of its past four games, Irvine’s recent stretch tells a different story.

The Anteaters are currently on a 12-game winning streak and will be entering the tournament as the newly crowned Big West champions. The Bruins, meanwhile, have lost two in a row, falling to both No. 1 seed Stanford and then No. 3 seed California in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament two weeks ago.

Coach Adam Wright said the disappointing finish for UCLA has helped motivate the team ahead of its final tournament.

“Sunday was obviously a disappointing way to finish the weekend,” Wright said. “But now, we have another chance. We want it so bad, and sometimes that gets in our way, but we know going into this tournament that there will be no next opportunity.”

If UCLA is able to defeat Irvine, it will move on to a semifinal contest against the winner of Stanford and Biola. The Bruins have already lost to the Cardinal twice this year and have gone a combined 0-6 against Stanford in the last two seasons.

With the Bruins anticipating a rematch with the Cardinal, redshirt senior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips said while UCLA realizes that Stanford is a great team, it needs to focus on internal preparation.

“They are a really good team with a lot of talent, so it has been a tough team for us to play against,” Phillips said. “In preparing to play them again, we’ve been focusing on our defense and how we want to work together as a team. We’re more focusing on us rather than who we’re up against.”

With the team preparing for its last games of the season and many of the team’s veterans preparing for their last games as Bruins, senior attack Hannah Palmer said UCLA is trying to approach the tournament calmly.

“It’s really important for us to not treat this any bigger than any other tournament,” Palmer said. “Obviously, there is a lot more at stake going into NCAAs this weekend, but I think we are doing a great job of not treating it differently so we kind of don’t get too high or too low about it.”

Despite the calm demeanor of the team, Wright said his group is excited and ready to compete for a national championship.

“We are excited to be a part of the tournament and have the chance to compete,” Wright said. “We are going to give it our all because this weekend, we have nothing to lose.”

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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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