After starting their season on the road this past month, the No. 9 UC Irvine women’s water polo team returned to their home pool to host No. 2 UCLA Saturday night. Despite a gutsy comeback attempt, the Bruins were able to fend off the ‘Eaters and secure the 11-6 victory.
The ‘Eaters garnered a 6-4 record entering the match, having competed in the Santa Barbara, Stanford and San Diego Invitationals. With Head Coach Dan Klatt away on a national team commitment, Assistant Coach Andrew Rowe evaluated the team’s effort thus far.
“We’re young, getting better each week and we’re growing in confidence,” said Rowe on the start of the season, “It’s a process … and the ultimate goal is to win the Big West.”
Their opponents Saturday night, the Bruins (8-1), had just come off a loss to USC, halting their seven-game win streak. Traveling to the Anteater Aquatics Complex, UCLA looked for a quick bounce back to their near-perfect season.
Five different Bruins scored two goals apiece to help pace a balanced attack, while UCI sophomore Mary Brooks scored a hat trick, leading the ‘Eaters in scoring. In front of the cage, senior Bruin goalkeeper Alex Musselman notched eight saves and freshman ‘Eater goalkeeper Jenna Phreaner had five of her own in the contest. The ‘Eaters would outscore the Bruins in the second half, but it was a UCLA six-goal run to end the first that ultimately widened the gap and made the deficit too much to overcome for the ‘Eaters.
Early on, both teams traded scores halfway through the first period, resulting in a 2-2 standoff. It was then that UCLA went on their six-goal run to end the half and seemingly take control of the game, earning an 8-2 advantage at the break. Coming into the third quarter, Irvine scored the two lone goals of the period, cutting the Bruin lead to 8-4. The ‘Eaters would cut the deficit to as close as three in the fourth quarter, but the Bruins would ice the game scoring the match’s last two goals.
“I thought we didn’t put away opportunities when they came for us, and we had good looks on the cage,” said Rowe. “It was a pretty good effort and we have to work on finishing and putting the ball in the net.”
The ‘Eaters will remain home to host the UC Irvine Invitational, and will open up against Arizona State this Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
“I think it’s really important for these girls to play at home,” said Rowe. “We’ve played so many games away and just being at home is a confidence booster for them, and we’re excited to host the tournament.”