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UCLA women’s water polo to dive into new season with UCSB Winter Invitational

Graduate student attacker Hannah Palmer holds the ball above her head during a UCLA women’s water polo game. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Women's water polo

Jan. 20, 11:45 a.m.

Santa Barbara High School
No TV info
UC San Diego
Jan. 20, 3:30 p.m.

Santa Barbara High School
No TV info
UC Santa Barbara
Jan. 21, 10:30 a.m.

Santa Barbara High School
No TV info

By Una O'Farrell

Jan. 19, 2024 3:39 p.m.

The Bruins will brace for familiar foes and a rarer opponent as they plunge into a new season.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo is set to open the season at the UC Santa Barbara Winter Invitational in Santa Barbara with games against No. 25 Marist and No. 10 UC San Diego on Saturday and will then face No. 12 UCSB on Sunday.

“We put in a lot of hard work in our offseason in these past couple of weeks in order to prep ourselves for the games,” said senior goalkeeper Sydney Chiang. “We’re really excited to finally be playing some games and play other teams and maintain focus on ourselves and what we can control.”

The Bruins are undefeated in their past two games against the Red Foxes, an opponent they haven’t faced since 2020.

While the Bruins are much more familiar with teams like the Tritons and the Gauchos, whom they’ve faced more than 20 times each, graduate student attacker Hannah Palmer said they plan to approach all three games with the same offensive strategy.

“We always say that we want to be playing as ourselves,” Palmer said. “It doesn’t matter where it is, what time it is or who our opponent is.”

The Bruins claimed success in all four of their games against the Gauchos and the Tritons last season, winning three out of four of the games by at least 10 goals.

UCLA will face off against nine of the nation’s current top-15 teams in 2024. The UCSB Winter Invitational provides an opportunity for the team to gauge how the new dynamics on the team are functioning, Palmer said.

“I think it’s going to be a really good test this weekend to see how our new team is meshing and how we’re playing together,” Palmer said. “After this weekend, I think we’ll get a really good idea of where we actually are.”

With 11 incoming freshmen, the squad is adjusting to big changes, with the more experienced, seasoned players taking on leadership roles.

“This is my fifth year, and I’ve been around the block for a while,” Palmer said. “It’s a really exciting time, and it’s a lot of fun to be able to teach them a new way of water polo.”

Coach Adam Wright said the competitive schedule is highly beneficial for the new freshmen class.

“Early on in the year, we’re playing on the road, we’re playing in a lot of big tournaments, and that’s going to be really helpful for them,” Wright said.

Despite losing in the semifinals of both the MPSF and NCAA tournaments last season, Wright hopes to focus on growth looking forward as the season begins.

“The biggest goal is to see who we can ultimately become,” Wright said. “As individuals, seeing how much we can grow, but more importantly, as a group.”

UCLA will kick off its season against Marist on Saturday at Santa Barbara High School.

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Una O'Farrell
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