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‘Our girls fought the whole way’: UCLA women’s water polo loses to Stanford

Sophomore attacker Emma Lineback rears back with the ball during the MPSF tournament semifinals against Stanford. Lineback scored twice on six attempts against the Cardinal in the NCAA semifinals Saturday. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

Women’s Water Polo

No. 4 seed UCLA9
No. 1 seed Stanford14

By Lexi Grimes

May 13, 2023 8:56 p.m.

This post was updated May 14 at 9:00 p.m.

The Bruins’ season has come to an end after a loss to the defending national champions. 

No. 4 seed UCLA women’s water polo (21-8, 4-2 MPSF) fell to No. 1 seed Stanford (23-1, 5-1) in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament Saturday evening in Stockton, California. The 14-9 loss marked the third time this season that the Bruins have been defeated by the Cardinal and the seventh loss in a row to Stanford over the last two years. 

UCLA had a strong first period, scoring three straight on Stanford after the Cardinal recorded the first goal of the match. However, Stanford responded with a 5-0 run to put the Bruins down 6-3 with just under three minutes left in the first half. 

A goal each from sophomore attacker Emma Lineback and freshman utility Anna Pearson tied the game for UCLA, but a final goal from the Cardinal sent the Bruins into halftime down by one.

Lineback said while the results varied greatly between the two halves, her team kept fighting until the very end.

“The first half we came out really strong, and we were firing,” Lineback said. “The second half came, and we needed to maintain, and unfortunately, they got the better of us today, but there was definitely not a lack of effort.” 

A UCLA penalty allowed Stanford to score the first goal of the second half, its first of four in the third period. The Bruins were only able to score twice in the third stanza and entered the final eight minutes of the match down by three goals. However, UCLA was only able to record one goal in the final quarter compared to three by the Cardinal, as the Bruins lost by five.

Stanford had three different players record a hat trick, including the team’s top scorer, 2-meters Aria Fischer. Meanwhile, the Bruins had seven different players score in the matchup, but Lineback and junior attacker Malia Allen were the lone players to record multiple goals. 

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips lunges to her left in an attempt to block a shot. Phillips allowed 13 goals against eight blocks in Saturday’s game. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

Coach Adam Wright said he was proud of his team’s performance in the tournament.

“Our girls fought the whole way,” Wright said. “The reality is there were just some little things – finishing out possessions defensively, having the ball right where we want it, and then just falling a second short and letting the ball go to the other side. I couldn’t have asked for more. We had our chances, but hats off to Stanford. It’s a pretty special team they have.” 

With the season now coming to an end, UCLA will lose a number of its top players who have been with the team for multiple years. One-third of the Bruins on the roster are seniors or graduate students, including goalkeeper Georgia Phillips and three of UCLA’s top scorers – attacker Val Ayala, center Ava Johnson and utility Katrina Drake.

Allen said despite the ending, the 2023 team will always be special to her.

“This is by far my favorite team that I have been a part of,” Allen said. “I would do anything for these girls, and we would do anything for each other, and I think it shows in the water. You can see the passion throughout the games, and this group of girls is really special.”

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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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