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UCLA women’s water polo to compete in Triton Invitational with 11 new players

UCLA women’s water polo coach Adam Wright stands on the deck and looks out over the pool. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Ava Abrishamchian

Feb. 1, 2024 2:41 p.m.

The Bruins are heading into their first tournament of the season.

“Starting on Friday, it is going to be the most challenging weekend we’ve had at this point,” said coach Adam Wright. “For us, everything right now is to gain experience and to see things that we need to learn and work on.”

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (4-0) will meet four teams in the Triton Invitational this weekend, beginning with California Baptist (1-3). With multiple brackets, the Bruins could face off against a wide variety of California and out-of-state schools, including a second-round matchup against either No. 9 UC San Diego or No. 14 Arizona State.

The invitational features 15 teams – in four initial brackets – playing matches within and across the brackets throughout the weekend.

Last week, sophomore utility Anna Pearson earned MPSF/Delfina Player of the Week, and freshman utility Panni Szegedi, MPSF/S&R was named Newcomer of the Week.

Freshman goalie Lauren Steele said the Bruins know what to hone in on for their match against the Lancers.

“We are trying to really work on our pressure and be super tough this weekend,” Steele said. “We have been talking about … not giving them any easy goals, not giving anyone anything easy.”

The Bruins’ roster is one of youth this season. With 11 freshmen and seven sophomores, the majority of the squad members are new to their collegiate careers in Westwood.

Wright said the Bruins are looking to lean on the youthfulness of their team to progress throughout the season.

“Most programs are younger, since there’s a lot of women’s water polo players taking the year off for the Olympic year,” Wright said. “But with us, we’re in a position where we’re going to have to lean on a lot of our younger players, and a lot of them are special – just some players that have the ability to come in and make bigger impacts right away.”

Pearson added that she sees the mixture of newcomers and veterans as an asset to the squad.

“I think a lot of younger girls bring a lot of spark and energy to our team, which definitely helps,” Pearson said. “Just having the older girls showing us how things are done and being great role models is a great combination.”

Pearson, one of the seven sophomores on the roster, had a career-high-tying effort with five goals in UCLA’s last contest against No. 16 UC Davis. In that same contest, eight different Bruins found the back of the net.

“Starting 4-0 is great, and we are hoping to continue our winning streak and come out with wins this weekend in the tournament,” Steele said. “It definitely fires us up that we had such a great start so far … to set the tone and the camaraderie.”

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Ava Abrishamchian
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