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Women’s water polo freshmen put best foot forward in first season with UCLA

Freshman utility Anna Pearson holds the ball while looking across the pool at senior attacker Hannah Palmer and sophomore attacker Emma Lineback. (Julia Zhou/Daily Bruin)

By Felicia Keller

May 11, 2023 5:05 p.m.

The Bruins’ freshmen core has been strong in its first season with the team.

In fact, it has been one of the best rookie groups in the nation.

Five UCLA women’s water polo freshmen have played key roles this season, putting in 131 combined games across the 27-game season and leading in goal contributions both among their own teammates as well as against other high-ranked teams’ freshmen groups.

Utilities Anna Pearson and Sienna Green – who both earned MPSF All-Newcomer season awards – picked up the second-and third-most goals by freshman in the conference this year. The standout group – that also includes center/defender Lily Gess, attacker Taylor Smith and utility Genoa Rossi – picked up five MPSF Delfina Player/S&R Sport Newcomer of the Week honors across the season and has the most collective goals in the MPSF.

“Our freshmen came in and they clicked really well with our entire team,” said senior attacker Hannah Palmer. “It was just really important for us to teach them how we do things here at UCLA because obviously every program, every team is going to do things differently.”

As an upperclassman, Palmer has contributed to getting the freshmen on board for the season, something coach Adam Wright acknowledged her and the rest of the team’s veterans for assisting.

“It has been a process with the freshmen. A huge credit to those who have been in the program for a while and the seniors who have helped the program and culture to grow,” Wright said. “The freshman class seems to really want to be a part of this program and culture, and they are very dedicated to also helping build the program so it has been really great to have them on the team and be able to utilize them.”

The freshmen have proven valuable across the entire season with one of them leading individually or tying the goal scoring in 59% of the games in the 2023 season.

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips said the group has earned her trust and confidence over the year.

“They have never shied away from opportunities. And they put forth 100% effort, even if things are new to them,” Phillips said. “I just have no doubt in their heart and drive as if it was their last game.”

The five freshman all tout double-digit goal tallies on the season, two more than the other top-five ranked teams in the nation.

Wright – who coached his first season in 2018 – is now at the helm of his first fully recruited team, with the current graduate students being the first ones he brought to the program. Recruiting is always important for the future, Wright said.

“We really have to continue to build this program and bring in more high level student athletes,” Wright said. “We have been lucky to always have great recruiting classes but we need to maintain that so we can continue to improve.”

This group should continue to grow both physically and intellectually over the next few years, and one day, take on the main roles in UCLA’s future pursuits of national championships.

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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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