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UCLA women’s water polo 2024 MPSF tournament predictions

Members of UCLA women’s water polo stand by the side of the pool during a timeout. (Karla Cardenas-Felipe/Daily Bruin)

By Lamar Tuker, Ava Abrishamchian, Una O'Farrell, and Mika McCaffrey

April 24, 2024 1:57 p.m.

No. 1 seed UCLA women’s water polo (21-0, 6-0 MPSF) is heading to Bloomington, Indiana, for the MPSF tournament this weekend. The Bruins earned a bye on Friday and will face the winner of No. 4 seed USC (17-6, 4-2) and No. 5 seed Arizona State (22-7, 2-4) in the semifinal. But before the players hit the pool, Daily Bruin Sports’ women’s water polo beat is predicting just where UCLA will end the weekend.

Una O’Farrell
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Second place

With an undefeated record and a roster full of both experienced veterans and fresh talent, UCLA has slated itself for success in the postseason.

But while the Bruins have all the right tools to carry themselves all the way to the championship game, their lack of a loss this season might be the one thing preventing them from bringing home their first MPSF title since 2017.

UCLA will face its first opponent in the semifinals of the MPSF tournament – either USC or Arizona State.

With wins over both the Trojans and Sun Devils earlier this season, it’s likely the squad will battle its way to a spot in the championship match of the tournament.

And while the underclassmen have contributed massively to the team’s current spotless record – with freshman utility Panni Szegedi second in goals scored and freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele racking up 180 saves – the youth of this season’s team could potentially lead to its own downfall.

The team’s 11 freshmen have never experienced the postseason stage, and as a team that’s only faced overtime once early in the season, if the Bruins fail to dominate early in their matches, they may find themselves struggling to bounce back in a foreign situation.

As the postseason awaits them, the Bruins have their goals set on gold. Yet their untested resilience raises one question: can they overcome adversity in crucial moments, or will their lack of experience with defeat prove to be their Achilles’ heel?

Lamar Tuker
Daily Bruin reporter
Prediction: MPSF Champions

The Bruins have collected roses and handed out thorns throughout the regular season, and the championships won’t be any different.

On track to make program history, UCLA has an opportunity to claim its first MPSF Championship title since 2017.

The Bruins recently overshadowed the Trojan’s senior day with a 7-5 win, their first over the Trojans in the past two years.

Szegedi was responsible for three of the seven goals the Bruins scored against the Trojans, while two other goals were attributed to graduate student attacker Brooke Doten.

The Bruins have defeated the Sun Devils twice this season. Their last match resulted in a 14-12 win. Steele made 10 saves on the day and sophomore attacker Taylor Smith netted 5 goals.

Regardless of their opponent, the Bruins have proven themselves capable of defending their title. They won’t fail to do so in the championships.

Ava Abrishamchian
Daily Bruin reporter
Prediction: MPSF Champions

History tends to repeat itself.

Empires rise and fall. Teams win and lose. Glory is found and lost again.

Whether 2005 or 2008, the Bruins have had undefeated seasons from start to finish before. However, history is always difficult to repeat.

Throughout the season, the squad has been on their toes. At any sign of weakness, the Bruins have found a way to prevail. In their match up against No. 2 Hawaii, the Bruins were down 8-3 with one minute to go in the second quarter. However, the magic of the young squad found a way to bounce back.

The Bruins restricted Hawaii to only one goal in the second half, to finish the match 15-9. Eight different Bruins found the back of the net, the strength of the squad shining through.

In the face of familiar foes, the Bruins’ offensive strength continuously etched double-digit wins. In conference matchups against California and USC, UCLA was able to overcome any game plan destined to set them up for failure.

The Bruins have a deep bench full of youth and energy. In matches with Hawaii and then-No. 3 Stanford, seven or more Bruins scored. The versatility of the young squad gives the Bruins a step up for the road ahead.

With a one-game bye to start the MPSF Championship, the Bruins will be prepared mentally and physically for any challenge they may face. Throughout the weekend, the opponents that will come and go are ones that the Bruins know how to defeat.

It may not be 2008, and time certainly has passed since 2005, but if the saying is true, the glory will be found once again – and it is about time.

Mika McCaffrey
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Second place

While the Bruins finished their regular season undefeated, a new challenge awaits the young team.

Leading up to the MPSF Championship this weekend, UCLA has had a string of conference matchups, with the last two against Cal and USC. Despite walking away from these games with their perfect record still intact, these recent performances could be an indication of potential struggle for the Bruins.

In its matchup against Cal two weeks ago, UCLA put up seven goals, which was a season low. Only upperclassmen scored, allowing the team to beat Cal in a narrow 7-6 victory.

With such a young team, this could pose potential issues for the Bruins heading into the tournament. With a young offense that is currently struggling to score, the team’s veterans will hold an even greater weight on their shoulders heading into the tournament.

Furthermore, in its most recent faceoff against USC, UCLA tied its season low with seven goals. While the Bruin underclassmen were able to find the back of the net in this game, the performance still shows signs of an offense that lacks momentum against conference opponents extremely close to the conference championship.

And with these recent struggles in the regular season, the Bruins may fall just short of the title.

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