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UCLA women’s water polo defeats UC Irvine for 9th win of the season

Sophomore attacker Taylor Smith looks out at the pool for UCLA women’s water polo. (Vivian Le/Daily Bruin)

Women's Water Polo

No. 8 UC Irvine5
No. 1 UCLA16

By Lamar Tuker

Feb. 11, 2024 2:15 p.m.

The Bruins took charge of the game in the second half, with 10 goals to the Anteaters’ two.

Coach Adam Wright said the team didn’t maximize its opportunities during the game’s first quarter.

“We were definitely slow out the gates,” Wright said. “And we’re trying to increase the tempo that we play at.”

No. 1 UCLA women’s water polo (9-0) emerged from its first home game of the season with a win over No. 8 UC Irvine (4-5). The Bruins’ last encounter with the Anteaters was during last season’s NCAA championship quarterfinals where the Bruins won by a two-point margin.

This time around, the Bruins maintained an 11-point distance.

Sophomore attacker Taylor Smith said halftime was when the team made a point of stepping up their game.

“(Coach) Adam says it’s up to us to change who we want to be,” Smith said. “And so I think that carried us into the next half.”

The Anteaters put the first goal of the game past freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele, but graduate student attacker Brooke Doten’s goal along with sophomore utility Genoa Rossi’s penalty shot put the Bruins ahead on the scoreboard, and they held onto the lead the rest of the game.

The Bruins buried five unanswered goals during the third quarter, the first three of which marked a hat trick for Smith, her first of the season.

Wright said more of the team needs to play at Smith’s level.

“We’re going to need people to step up like Taylor and finish the ball,” Wright said. “And she’s been great so far this year.”

Three different Bruins took hold of the sprints, all of which went to them over the Anteaters. Freshman utility Panni Szegedi took two of them, in addition to graduate student attackers Fiona Kuesis and Hannah Palmer.

Kuesis also scored two goals during the game, both coming on the 6-on-5.

“I didn’t know that I was going to be coming back for my fifth year until kind of late, so I’m just happy to be here every day and get to play with my friends,” Kuesis said. “That’s all I can really ask for whether I score or not.”

The Bruins allowed two more goals from the Anteaters during the game’s final quarter before ending the game with two of their own. Ten different Bruins struck the back of the Anteater’s net.

Wright said the team is still improving when it comes to ball possession.

“That’s an area that we tried to clean up this week,” Wright said. “But we got to be better.”

The Bruins have a chance to reach the double-digit win benchmark next week as they look to stay undefeated against No. 7 Arizona State.

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Lamar Tuker
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