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UCLA women’s water polo sweeps weekend contests against Princeton, San Jose State

Freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele looks at the ball as she holds it in the air. Steele had two goals over the weekend for UCLA women’s water polo. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

Women's Water Polo

No. 14 Princeton6
No. 1 UCLA6
No. 17 San Jose State8
No. 1 UCLA16

By Una O'Farrell

March 19, 2024 5:54 p.m.

Slower starts weren’t enough to deter the Bruins from adding two wins to their slate.

No. 1 UCLA women’s water polo (18-0, 3-0 MPSF) defeated No. 14 Princeton (14-6, 6-0 Collegiate Water Polo Association) and No. 17 San Jose State (9-9, 0-2 MPSF) last weekend at Spieker Aquatics Center.

The Bruins scored three goals in the first half against the Tigers – their lowest in an opening frame since last season’s loss to the Trojans in the final game of the regular season.

“The reality is, they work so hard – so at some point, they’re going break through,” said coach Adam Wright. “Both games were kind of the tale of two halves. The nice part of today (Sunday) versus yesterday (Saturday) is that the intensity is completely different.”

UCLA bounced back in the second half to defeat Princeton 10-6 with five different players contributing to the team’s final seven goals scored.

The squad had a similar start to its 16-8 win Sunday, committing seven exclusions in the first half and recording only six goals.

“We know that every team is going to bring out their best game, so kudos to them for coming out strong that first half,” said freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele. “But we know we can play so much better than what we played that first half.”

Steele had a combined 21 saves across both games and boasted two goals – one in each match – marking the fourth and fifth goals of her freshman season.

“She’s a really special athlete,” Wright said. “The reality is, not many goalies are going to be the point on 6-on-7, but she has that ability. Her energy is second to none, and she spends a lot of time working on that.”

The Bruins scored six goals in the third quarter against the Spartans. Sophomore attacker Taylor Smith notched the final two points of her hat trick off of 6-on-5 power plays.

Smith said the support and effort from her team solidified her offensive performance.

“It doesn’t happen without the entire team working hard,” Smith said. “During those few possessions, we were able to find a way to make it happen.”

UCLA’s back-to-back victories this weekend have pushed its undefeated record to 18 before it faces No. 2 Stanford on March 30 for its last home game of the season.

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Una O'Farrell
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