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UCLA women’s water polo to net experience in California Cup matchups

UCLA women’s water polo players clap and exchange high-fives. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

Women's water polo

No. 7 Stanford
Saturday, 9 a.m.

No TV info
No. 14 UC Davis
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

No TV info
No. 3 California
Sunday, 9:30 a.m.

No TV info
USA Youth National Team
Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

No TV info

By Lamar Tuker

Jan. 25, 2024 2:19 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 25 at 11:36 p.m.

The Bruins’ next match against the Cardinal will rely on speed.

At least, that’s how coach Adam Wright is approaching his team’s upcoming game against the reigning NCAA champions.

“Stanford always is a fast break-type team,” Wright said. “Our goal is to slow down their counter.”

No. 2 UCLA’s women’s water polo (3-0) will head up to Berkeley and compete at the California Cup on Saturday and Sunday, opening its weekend against No. 7 Stanford (2-2) in an exhibition game before taking on No. 14 UC Davis (0-4). The team will round out its four-game weekend with exhibition matches against No. 3 California (3-0) and the USA Youth National Team.

The first contest, though, is a chance for the Bruins to maintain their winning streak and hand the Cardinal its third loss of the season.

The Bruins lost to the Cardinal a combined nine times in the past three years, only overcoming them twice in 2021 – once during the NCAA championships. Graduate student attacker Hannah Palmer scored a goal during that game.

This season, the veteran netted two goals and three steals against Marist. She also assisted two goals against No. 12 UC Santa Barbara.

Last season, the Bruins fell short to the Cardinal by five goals in their regular season contest. Then-graduate student center Ava Johnson was UCLA’s top scorer and raked in three goals for the Bruins. Then-freshman attacker Taylor Smith also contributed two goals.

The Newport Beach local added to her stat sheet last weekend in all three games, landing two goals against Marist, three steals against No. 10 UC San Diego and one assist against UCSB.

Graduate student attacker Brooke Doten said the Bruins are working on their collective rhythm, since the season is still fresh.

“We all have a lot of good pieces,” Doten said. “Now it’s just how we put those pieces together.”

Meanwhile, the Cardinal had an equal number of wins and losses at the Polo-Palooza last weekend, falling to No. 4 Hawaii and No. 5 Fresno State.

UCLA is still adjusting to a new team dynamic with 11 freshmen on the roster. Wright said the exhibition games are a learning experience and a chance for insight on other teams.

“We’ll learn more about ourselves after next weekend because we get to see Stanford and Cal as well as Davis,” Wright said. “Right now, it’s just about gathering information.”

This past week marked individual achievements for the Bruins, as freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele earned MPSF West/S&R Sport Newcomer of the Week.

Steele said the team is preparing to give its all.

“(We) just want to make sure that we’re ready for it, and we’re going for it,” Steele said.

Steele defended the Bruins’ net in the match against the Red Foxes, holding them scoreless in the first period. She also landed two goals against the Gauchos and three steals against the Tritons.

UCLA will commence its first California Cup match against Stanford on Saturday morning in Berkeley.

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Lamar Tuker
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