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UCLA women’s water polo conquers USC to net 1st undefeated season since 2008

UCLA women’s water polo freshman utility Panni Szegedi reaches up to block the ball. (Karla Cardenas-Felipe/Daily Bruin)

Women’s Water Polo

No. 1 UCLA7
No. 4 USC5

By Lamar Tuker

April 20, 2024 8:01 p.m.

This post was updated April 21 at 9:46 p.m.

The Bruins ended the regular season with an undefeated record and their first win over the Trojans in two years.

No. 1 UCLA women’s water polo (21-0, 6-0 MPSF) commemorated its last game of the regular season with a win over No. 4 USC (17-6, 4-2) at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Saturday. The Bruins’ 7-5 win earned them their first undefeated regular season since 2008. 

The first quarter saw the Trojans take an early lead with the only goal of the stanza.

Freshman utility Panni Szegedi picked up two goals in the second quarter, burying the team’s first goal of the day on the 6-on-5.

“It took us a little bit longer to get our feet on the ground per se and breathe and get back to doing things the right way,” said coach Adam Wright. “Panni, early on, her shooting kept us in the game for sure.”

On back-to-back plays in the second quarter, graduate student attacker Brooke Doten stole the ball from the Trojans and buried it into their net, handing the Bruins their first lead of the day.

The Bruins’ goals continued to be matched by their crosstown rivals as the game entered halftime tied 3-3.

Doten picked up her second goal of the day in the third quarter, scoring on a rebound produced by sophomore utility Anna Pearson working in the center. 

Wright said that Pearson – who drew two exclusions on the day – has been excellent at center this season.

“As frustrating as that can be for her at times when you have three or four people on top of you, it’s putting our team in a position to be successful,” Wright said. “She’s been rock solid and consistent the whole year.” 

Szegedi buried her third of the day – and her fifth hat trick of the season – to put the Bruins up by the final score of 7-5.

Doten said she was proud of the rookie’s performance.

“Just watching her throughout this season, how she’s blossomed, in a game like this is just really exciting for me because she’s just a freshman,” Doten said. “She has such a bright future ahead of her.”

Both teams went scoreless in the fourth; the Bruins’ seven goals scored in just two quarters were enough to earn them the win. 

“To hold the team to five goals defensively, and last week, I think it was six,” Wright said. “That will always put you in a position to have a chance.”

The Bruins claimed the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season title and an undefeated regular season record for the first time in Wright’s tenure. 

Wright credited past players who have shaped what the program is today.

“The thing that I’m most grateful for is those women that aren’t here and are graduated now but have been through part of this process – it’s a credit to them,” Wright said. “They worked so hard, they stayed the course.”

Doten, in her fifth and final year with the team, said the team was excited about the regular season result but is now looking ahead to postseason play.

“In my five years here, we’ve never had an undefeated regular season, so I think we are super pumped and excited, especially to see what that brings for us in the future,” Doten said. “Really proud of us – but job’s not done.”

UCLA will head to the MPSF tournament at Indiana next weekend, where it will have a first-round bye. 

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Lamar Tuker
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