Men's Water Polo,
Swim & Dive,
Top Moments: Daily Bruin Sports spotlights the best of UCLA athletics in 2022-2023
(Helen Quach/Design director. Left photo by Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff. Right photo by Ethan Manafi/Daily Bruin staff.)
This post was updated June 12 at 1:32 p.m.
From national championships to narrow victories to incredible comebacks – and sometimes a mix of all three – the 2022-2023 athletic year was one for the record books. Take a look back at some of UCLA Athletics’ top moments with Daily Bruin Sports.
Women’s soccer wins national championship
Jay Fenn, Daily Bruin staff
Trailing 2-0 to North Carolina in the national championship with just 10 minutes to play, it looked like UCLA women’s soccer would fall short of its ultimate goal.
Sophomore forward Lexi Wright then delivered a goal in the 80th minute to cut the lead to one, giving the Bruins a spark of hope.
However, it was the goal from junior forward Reilyn Turner that would produce one of the most iconic moments in collegiate soccer history.
With 16 seconds remaining, freshman midfielder Ally Lemos teed up a corner kick perfectly served for the head of a crashing Turner to tie the match and send it to overtime.
Then in the second overtime, graduate student midfielder Maricarmen Reyes – playing in the final game of her five-year collegiate career – notched the game-winning goal in the 107th minute to give the Bruins their first national title since 2013.
The title comes a year after UCLA was shocked in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the hands of UC Irvine. If the upset wasn’t enough, the squad then lost Coach Amanda Cromwell – who had called Westwood home for nine years and led the Bruins to their first title in program history – to the National Women’s Soccer League.
Margueritte Aozasa was then hired to try and bring UCLA back to national prominence and reshape a program that hadn’t won a national championship in just under a decade.
The first-year head coach did just that, leading the Bruins to a 22-2-1 record and a national title while creating a program that will compete year in and year out.
Men’s volleyball wins national championship
Anthony Aroyan, Daily Bruin staff
Thousands of miles away from home and surrounded by rival fans, UCLA men’s volleyball’s national championship was one for the history books.
With the No. 1 seed in tow, the Bruins unlocked their full potential as they avenged last year’s semifinal loss against Long Beach State and defeated the reigning champions Hawaiʻi. Under player-turned-head-coach John Speraw, the team donned the NCAA crown for the first time.
Beating Hawaiʻi – a team that dominated the standings for most of the regular season – was a tough final test for the Bruins. Hitting just .268 in their regular season contest with the Rainbow Warriors, the Bruins were bested in four sets.
The championship game featured another four-frame frenzy – this time with two overtime sets – testing UCLA’s determination and poise from the jump.
After a crushing 33-31 loss in the second set, it looked as though momentum had shifted away from the Bruins. Answering the call, several players posted season-high totals. Sophomore outside hitter Ido David started the match on a hot streak, earning nine kills in the opening frame.
Among the new faces to the team, freshman setter Andrew Rowan notched 60 assists. Earning AVCA Newcomer of the Year and MPSF Freshman of the Year honors, Rowan’s presence on the squad went beyond the final.
Capping off a six-year career with the Bruins, redshirt senior middle blocker J.R. Norris IV tallied five service aces, delivering four of them in the final frame.
When all was said and done, a season brimming with dominant wins and a few tough losses culminated in UCLA’s 20th men’s volleyball title. As friends and family surrounded the team, the Bruins cut the nets in Virginia, signaling the start of a new chapter for the program.
Women’s tennis’ Fangran Tian wins NCAA singles title
Jack Nelson, Daily Bruin senior staff
Once sitting comfortably in the stratosphere, Fangran Tian had entered free fall.
The Pac-12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year went 15-0 in regular-season dual-singles play, claiming 31 of 38 completed sets at court one for UCLA women’s tennis.
But when she stepped into the national spotlight, perfection quickly escaped her. Tian dropped her final two singles contests of the NCAA team tournament, leaving her to grapple with an unprecedented four-set losing streak before the most trying time of the season.
She then rocketed her way into history.
With the finest wire-to-wire performance of any Bruin ever at the NCAA women’s singles tournament, the freshman became a bona fide phenom. She rattled off six consecutive wins, not once dropping a set to six consecutive top-60 opponents.
Tian quickly solved each puzzle placed in front of her. Against five of those six foes, she earned a larger margin of victory in the second set than in the first. Only once did she require more than six games won to claim a set. Not once did she go to a tiebreaker.
In the title match, Oklahoma’s Layne Sleeth was the opposition – an unseeded player who emerged from the other side of the bracket thanks to wear-and-tear defensive play. Operating as a backboard at the baseline, she returned virtually any shot sent her way, waiting for her opponent to tire before entering attack mode.
Tian didn’t fall into that trap. Holding her own with a high first-serve percentage and minimal unforced errors, she earned a late break in the first set and pulled away in the second. She outpaced and outworked the Sooner with a mix of hot groundstrokes and net aggression to hoist the trophy.
By cranking the burners when she needed them, Tian prevented herself from ever really touching back down.
She instead found herself in the stars.
Women’s basketball upsets Stanford in Pac-12 tournament
Gavin Carlson, Daily Bruin staff
The Cardinal owned the Bruins – all-time, all season and all game.
UCLA women’s basketball entered its Pac-12 tournament semifinal matchup against Stanford at a winless 0-9 against the Bay Area school in conference tournament games. The Bruins were 8-45 all-time in the 21st century, 5-18 in the coach Cori Close era and had lost their previous four matchups against the Cardinal by an average of 16.5 points heading into the contest.
So when No. 1 seed Stanford grabbed a 16-point lead midway through the third quarter, few were surprised. After all, the same No. 5-seeded UCLA squad had needed overtime to defeat the worst team in the Pac-12 two days prior.
And yet, after surviving No. 12 seed Arizona State before upsetting No. 4 seed Arizona, the Bruins saved their best Las Vegas magic trick for the fourth quarter against the Pac-12’s powerhouse program.
Trailing by 10 points, UCLA opened the final period on a 9-2 run. Then, with the Cardinal lead at five with under five minutes to play, the Bruins went on an 8-0 spurt to grab their first lead since the opening basket of the game.
UCLA ultimately outscored Stanford 29-15 in the fourth quarter to complete the 16-point comeback and leave the entire Las Vegas crowd stunned.
Freshman guard Kiki Rice scored a career-high 22 points, while redshirt sophomore forward Emily Bessoir and graduate student guard Gina Conti shined in their first conference tournaments since enduring season-long injuries the year prior. Senior guard Charisma Osborne called the contest “one of my favorite games that I’ve ever played in.”
In their 10th try, the Bruins finally beat the Cardinal in a Pac-12 tournament game. And they did it in the most dramatic fashion.
Even though UCLA couldn’t finish the job in the ensuing championship game, the Pac-12 tournament run and victory over Stanford helped the Bruins secure a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With that, UCLA hosted a pair of NCAA Tournament games at Pauley Pavilion and used the home-court advantage to earn its first Sweet 16 bid since 2019.
So in addition to being unbelievable, the Bruins’ comeback win was meaningful. March 3, 2023, will forever be a historic day for the program.
Selena Harris scores perfect 10 on vault to help UCLA come back at NCAA regionals
Genevieve Trimbell, Daily Bruin reporter
The Bruins’ 2023 season seemed to be a testament to how far they had come following the two previous disappointing years.
They held a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title, placed second at the Pac-12 championships and finished the regular season ranked No. 4 in the nation.
But halfway through the regional finals, it appeared that UCLA gymnastics hadn’t changed much after all. With two events to go, Missouri threatened to hand UCLA another heartbreakingly early postseason exit – just as it did at the 2022 regional finals.
The Bruins posted a season-high 49.700 on floor in the third rotation to give themselves a razor-thin .050 lead over the Tigers. But to make it to nationals for the first time since 2019, they had to execute a successful vault rotation, an event that had proven to be their weakest across the season.
With its season on the line, UCLA averaged just over 9.850 on its first four vaults – good enough to keep it in contention, but not enough to clinch a trip to Fort Worth, Texas.
Freshman Selena Harris had a chance to decide the Bruins’ destiny.
The six-time Pac-12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Week sprinted through the Pauley Pavilion runway. Harris soared through the air with her Yurchenko 1.5 vault and landed without a step.
Gymnasts pursue perfection every time they compete in an event. They rarely find it.
But with her team’s season on the line, Harris obtained, for the first time, that coveted perfection. As the scoreboard flashed with her first-ever collegiate 10, she was overwhelmed with emotion and buckled into the arms of sophomore Jordan Chiles as they celebrated.
Although UCLA would eventually suffer a first-round loss in the NCAA championships, Harris’ perfect 10 and the Bruins’ first appearance at nationals in four years signaled a return to the success that has historically defined UCLA gymnastics.
Beach volleyball wins Pac-12 championship after comeback from contender’s bracket
Rahaf Abumansour, Daily Bruin contributor
If there was one recurring theme of UCLA beach volleyball’s season, it was to rally until the last set dropped.
The Bruins rallied for the seventh year straight to return the Pac-12 title to Westwood.
UCLA started off strong, sweeping Utah by a score of 3-0. However, Stanford gave the team a rude wake-up call with its first loss of the tournament, sending the Bruins to the contender’s bracket.
This meant it was all or nothing, with a championship that hadn’t been won since 2021 on the line. The Bruins knew they had to deliver, and that’s precisely what they did.
Instead of taking the defeat, the Bruins channeled their mantra of never quitting. That loss changed the players’ mentalities and gave them a spark to finish business.
UCLA was scheduled to play Stanford once more on the third and final day of the tournament, and they would also face their crosstown rival, USC.
In the games to follow, the squad swept all those teams to set up its big comeback in the final against California.
The Golden Bears – in their first-ever appearance in the championship final – were in a much different place than the Bruins, who had six consecutive title game appearances. Junior Peri Brennan and graduate student Abby Van Winkle defeated Ashley Delgado and Ainsley Radell on court two while graduate student Marlie Monserez and sophomore Jessie Smith upset Lexi McKeown and Ella Dreibholz on court four to give UCLA a 2-0 lead.
On court five, graduate student Jaden Whitmarsh and senior Devon Newberry sealed the deal, defeating Cal’s Brooke Buchner and Alex Young-Gomez in straight sets to clinch the title for UCLA.
That win reclaimed the Pac-12 championship for the Bruins and punctuated a mentality of rallying until the end.
Gianpiero Di Martire scores three goals in 65 seconds against USC
Joseph Crosby, Sports editor
Fulvio Di Martire watched from the stands as one of his sons scored four goals against his other.
Redshirt sophomore attacker Gianpiero Di Martire had an even better view, witnessing his brother’s hat trick and then some from the pool deck.
Even as UCLA men’s water polo’s second-leading scorer, he had yet to dent the twine all game.
While Gianpiero Di Martire missed his only shot taken before the fourth period, his older brother, USC driver Massimo Di Martire, scored four times before the end of the third and led the Trojans to a 13-10 lead in the final 1:19 of the game.
Coach Adam Wright shifted to a seven-on-six formation to try and generate quick offense in response, and from then on, Gianpiero Di Martire put on a clinic.
He scored his first and second goals on near-identical shots from the right side of the goal before positioning himself just in front of the left post with less than 10 seconds on the clock.
Then graduate student utility Jake Cavano lobbed the ball over the top, and Gianpiero Di Martire slammed it in to tie the game, securing his hat trick with three seconds to play.
The bulk of the game may have been about the older of the Di Martire brothers, but it was Gianpiero Di Martire who rewrote the narrative with his superhuman performance to force overtime.
The Bruins went on to win 14-13 behind another goal in the final three seconds of the second overtime period, securing the team’s third victory of the season over the Trojans.
Fulvio Di Martire’s sons both put on a show at Spieker Aquatics Center that day.
But Gianpiero Di Martire was the one who made sure his team ended its regular season on a win.
Gabby Dang takes the 100-yard butterfly against USC by 0.01 seconds
Sabrina Baker, Daily Bruin reporter
As a swimmer, there are very few moments better than out-touching your opponent in a race.
As a Bruin, there is nothing more exciting than beating the Trojans.
Senior swimmer Gabby Dang got to experience the thrill of both at the UCLA swim and dive dual meet against then-No. 14 USC in early February, a meet that resulted in a loss on the Bruins’ record but was full of moral victories.
UCLA started the meet off with five wins, including a podium sweep in the 100-yard freestyle, to USC’s six. What originally seemed to be a meet that the Trojans could easily win was quickly becoming a back-and-forth battle.
With three swim events left in the crosstown showdown, Dang was aiming to defend her title from the year before, when her 100-yard butterfly time of 52.35 bested USC’s Anicka Delgado by 0.03 seconds.
Dang proved that history repeats itself. With 25 yards left, Dang was neck and neck with Delgado – just like last year.
Dang was not about to give up her title from the previous year, finishing the race victorious. This year the win came by a gap 10 times faster than the blink of an eye – a mere 0.01 seconds.
The Bruins finished the swimming portion of the day with another high – a school-record-breaking performance in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The relay team posted a time of 3:14.41 to break the record from 2017.
Ultimately, the Trojans’ diving performance pushed them ahead of the Bruins with a final dual meet score of 152-148. But in their final regular-season meet of the year, the Bruins ended their year with a performance to be proud of.