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Undefeated UCLA women’s water polo heads to MPSF semifinal with first-round bye

Graduate student attacker Hannah Palmer holds the ball. (Karla Cardenas-Felipe/Daily Bruin)

Women's Water Polo


MPSF semifinal
April 27, 3:30 p.m.

Bloomington, Indiana

By Una O'Farrell

April 25, 2024 5:15 p.m.

This post was updated April 25 at 11:31 p.m.

With a winning streak longer than a Shakespearean sonnet, the Bruins are penning their own cut tale heading into their first postseason tournament.

No. 1 seed UCLA women’s water polo (21-0, 6-0) will travel to Bloomington, Indiana this weekend to make its bid for the MPSF championship title. The Bruins have a bye for the first round of the tournament and will face either No. 4 seed USC (17-6, 4-2) or No. 5 seed Arizona State (22-7, 2-4) in the semifinals Saturday.

Coach Adam Wright, named MPSF Coach of the Year on Wednesday, said the bye provides his team with an opportunity to scout out its possible competition.

“It gives us another day to get acclimated, another day to train,” Wright said. “Obviously it’s another opportunity for us to watch who our opponent will be. For us, the big thing is being focused, and we get a chance to watch ASU and USC and see who we’re playing.”

UCLA is coming fresh off its first win over USC in two years, a 7-5 result. The Trojans’ five goals were their lowest scored across the season.

On the other hand, the Bruins defeated the Sun Devils twice this season, scoring 14 and 13 goals respectively.

“We just played USC last weekend, so obviously the familiarity is greater there. ASU plays a little bit of a different style where they play full zones, and we prepare for both,” Wright said. “Really it’s about focusing on yourself and then touching a little bit on each team you could potentially see.”

MPSF awards were released Wednesday, with the Bruins securing multiple honors beyond Wright’s win. Freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele brought home 2024 MPSF Newcomer of the Year, while five members of the squad earned spots on the All-MPSF teams.

Both the freshman class and veteran talent have contributed to UCLA’s undefeated season to this point. In their recent matchup against the Trojans, freshman utility Panni Szegedi completed a hat trick, and graduate student attacker Brooke Doten found the back of the net twice.

Graduate student attacker Hannah Palmer – who contributed one drawn exclusion and one assist during the Bruins previous matchup against the Trojans – said UCLA is looking forward to starting the tournament regardless of opponent.

“We’re definitely excited to be playing either ASU or USC,” Palmer said. “Something that we’ve learned from playing them (USC) recently is that we have to be more focused on our own game.”

Despite it being the first postseason championship tournament for the team’s 11 freshmen, attacker Becca Melanson said she feels confident in her team’s ability based on their successful season.

“Coming into my first MPSF tournament, it’s all new, so it’s definitely nerve-wracking,” Melanson said. “I’m excited, a little nervous, but overall definitely confident. We’ve had an incredible season, and as a first-year, I’m very proud to be on such an amazing squad.”

If the Bruins win their semifinal match on Saturday, they’ll face the other semifinal winner for the championship title Sunday, with the possibility of playing No. 2 seed California or No. 3 seed Stanford, who knocked UCLA out of the semifinals in last year’s MPSF tournament.

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