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UCLA women’s water polo NCAA tournament predictions 2024

Members of UCLA women’s water polo stand around coach Adam Wright. (Karla Cardenas-Felipe/Daily Bruin)

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

May 9, 2024 5:30 p.m.

No. 1 seed UCLA women’s water polo (23-0, 6-0 MPSF) is headed to Berkeley for the NCAA tournament this weekend. UCLA will begin tournament play Friday against Wagner (30-4, 12-0 MAAC). A win in the quarterfinals would send UCLA to the winner of No. 4 seed Stanford and USC on Saturday, with the final Sunday night against potential ranked opponents, including No. 2 seed Hawaii and No. 3 seed California. The Daily Bruin women’s water polo beat predicts how the Bruins’ season will end.

Una O’Farrell
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: NCAA Champions

In a tournament where every point counts, it’s the wisdom of age that will tip the scales.

And based on the dominant offensive performance from the squad’s upperclassmen that led them to their first MPSF title in seven years, that’s exactly what the Bruins will use to bring home the NCAA championship.

UCLA has dictated play in the pool all season long, with an undefeated record the team hasn’t seen in over a decade. With 20 of their 23 straight wins against ranked opponents, the Bruins enter the NCAA tournament with a slew of experience in all fields of defense and attack.

And while the team has proven the depth of their roster game after game, it’s contributions from seasoned upperclassmen that will launch UCLA to its 123rd national title.

Senior attacker Malia Allen completed a hat trick in both of the team’s competitions against Cal this season and delivered a career-high six goals in the team’s most recent win over Stanford – last year’s NCAA champions, who knocked UCLA out of the semifinals.

Along with Allen’s consistent offensive blitzes, graduate student attacker Hannah Palmer spearheaded the team’s win in the semifinals of the MPSF tournament, tying her career high with five goals along with adding two goals to the team’s 13-10 win over Cal in the final.

If the Bruins can replicate this execution throughout the NCAA tournament, the title is theirs – a crown fit for the undefeated champions.

Ava Abrishamchian
Daily Bruin reporter
Prediction: Second Place

Perfection is difficult.

It requires preparation, execution and a little bit of luck.

UCLA has prepared and executed the season’s 23 matches with 23 wins. However, it may not have enough luck left to take it over the finish line.

With back-to-back games in the NCAA Tournament, the quick turn of events may give the team whiplash. Tight finishes have been a common occurrence for the Bruins, such as in their first match of the year against Cal, where the Bruins’ second half cemented another mark in the win column after the first quarter saw a slight deficit to start the match.

However, what the Bruins have in finishes, they lack in full game consistency. The Bruins finished off their last two matches against the Trojans with their lowest scoring quarters of each game. Similarly, in their last match against California, UCLA lost the quarter 4-2.

As the Bruins face off against their toughest challengers one last time, consistency will be key. With freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele reaching a season-high 20 saves on the back end of the pool, it will be on offensive stars, such as freshman utility Panni Szegedi and sophomore utility Anna Pearson to keep the fire burning through all 32 minutes.

However, with such a young squad, experience will be lacking. When the strain of stress and lack of experience culminates, the Bruins may be left in the dust from the perfect season.

I, for one, don’t mind being proven wrong.

Lamar Tuker
Daily Bruin reporter
Prediction: NCAA Champions

UCLA’s woman of Steele is every team’s worst fear.

And she’s going to prove it.

UCLA ended its regular season undefeated and went on to protect its winning streak during the MPSF championships.

The latest teams to bear the heat of the Bruins’ glory are the Golden Bears and Trojans. In an earlier matchup with Cal, Steele matched her season-high 20 saves during the regular season.

And the Connecticut local totaled 17 saves versus USC, only ramping up her play as the season has continued.

The Bruins have been breaking records all season.

During the MPSF tournament, the Bruins’ seven year drought ended as they won the title for the first time in coach Adam Wright’s tenure. They also held the Trojans to four goals.

The Bruins will return from Berkeley with gold, and Steele will break her own personal best, ending the season with well over 250 saves.

With their net well guarded, the Bruins will knot the season with the NCAA title.

Mika McCaffrey
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Second Place

UCLA has had an incredible season so far with an undefeated record and MPSF championship under its belt. However, the perfect season may fall short in the NCAA final.

Some of the most perfect teams on paper fell short at the climax of their season. The same fate could befall the Bruins this weekend.

Despite their latest tournament victory to take home the MPSF championship title, the NCAA tournament will pose new challenges for the team.

UCLA has seemingly found its offensive momentum against No. 5 USC in the semifinals, but it still only beat Cal in a 13-10 victory to clinch the tournament title.

Hawai’i has had a recent string of success, including taking home its own conference title, and will likely make it to the NCAA final against UCLA. While the UCLA has defeated Hawai’i before, one of those victories was a narrow 13-12 overtime win. This contest could potentially swing in favor of Hawai’i if UCLA is unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

With the struggles of playing against high-power teams like the Rainbow Wahine, the Bruins will fall just short of a perfect season and end with a second-place title at the NCAA tournament.

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Ava Abrishamchian
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