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UCLA women’s water polo advances to NCAA semifinals after 24th straight win

Freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele reaches to her right toward the ball. (Karla Cardenas-Felipe/Daily Bruin)

Women’s Water Polo

No. 1 seed UCLA17

By Una O'Farrell

May 10, 2024 2:22 p.m.

This post was updated May 12 at 9:56 a.m.

BERKELEY – The Bruins added another name to their ledger in a win over the Seahawks, continuing their undefeated season in their vie for a national championship.

No. 1 seed UCLA women’s water polo (24-0, 6-0 MPSF) defeated Wagner (30-5, 12-0 MAAC) in the NCAA tournament quarterfinal at Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley on Friday. In their 17-7 victory, the Bruins held the Seahawks scoreless for over 13 minutes across the second and third quarters.

The Seahawks were the only opponent in the NCAA tournament the Bruins hadn’t faced this season, but despite the teams’ unfamiliarity, the Bruins held their opponent to only seven goals off of 39 attempts.

“No matter who the opponent is, we stick to who we are and what we train for,” said senior attacker Malia Allen. “I definitely think that is what our biggest strength has been this season.”

It was a game of threes offensively from the beginning for the Bruins, with graduate student attacker Hannah Palmer completing a hat trick in the first quarter alone.

Palmer’s third goal came on a counter attack and marked the third straight goal in one minute for the Bruins to close out the first quarter.

“It’s her (Palmer’s) fifth year, she has that little extra push in her right now,” said graduate student attacker Brooke Doten. “It pushes everyone else to give us all the energy we need when she starts off like that.”

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

The second quarter saw four different Bruins contributing to the quarter’s four goals, as Wagner’s scoreless drought carried into the third quarter.

“UCLA water polo has always been based on defense,” said coach Adam Wright. “When you have people committed to playing defense the right way, you start to build trust and growth of the group.”

The third quarter opened with two goals by sophomore attacker Taylor Smith, one off a 6-on-5 and one natural, both assisted by junior attacker Molly Renner.

MPSF tournament MVP freshman goalkeeper Lauren Steele recorded 16 blocks through the first three quarters. Senior goalkeeper Sydney Chiang slotted into goal for the fourth quarter with four blocks to close out the game.

“Glad we had the opportunity to get her (Sydney) in there, she gets some saves,” Wright said. “It’s also important, she’s always got to be ready.”

After a timeout called by Wagner in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks went on to score two goals in the final two minutes of the game.

While UCLA was able to convert five of its eight 6-on-5 opportunities, the Bruins’ defense prevented the Seahawks from converting on all four of their power play advantages.

“If we have a good 5-on-6, we have an opportunity to be in every game,” Wright said. “That’s been a staple for our program this year.”

The Bruins’ early lead held strong, earning them their 24th straight victory.

The Bruins will face the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 4 seed Stanford and USC, competing for the chance to play in the national championship.

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Una O'Farrell
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