#3 UCLA Women's Water Polo Visits Fresno State to Open Season
UCLA, which was ranked second when the season was cancelled last year, returns almost all of their biggest contributors from last year.
The #3 UCLA women’s water polo team opens the 2021 season this afternoon when they take on the #11 Fresno State Bulldogs on the road. The opening sprint is set for Noon. While today’s game won’t be televised, it will be streamed on Fresno State’s website.
Since it’s the first game of the year, let’s take a look at this year’s team.
Unlike the UCLA softball team which has everyone from last season back, the women’s water polo team did lose a few contributors to last year’s team. The biggest loss was Emily Skelly who graduated. Skelly was third in goals last season with 25 while Alex Peros contributed seven goals. Rachel Spadt, who scored twice last year, has transferred to Long Beach State.
Another player who transferred is Brooke Banta. She is now at UC Irvine. Other departures include Brooke Gruneisen and Parker Hoffman.
Head Coach Adam Wright has brought in a freshman class consisting of eight new players. Five of the eight are attackers. They are Morgan Van Alphen, Anneliese Miller, Malia Allen, Claire Kronen, and Cassidy Miller. Izzy Gazzaniga is a center while Sarah Fellner is listed as a utility player. With starting goalie Jahmea Bent entering her senior season, Sydney Chiang joins the team as a freshman goalkeeper.
Make no mistake, this is Maddie Musselman’s team, but this year’s squad brings back an awful lot of talent and that should help the Bruins compete for the National Championship. Other returners include Bronte Halligan, Roxy Wheaton, Lexi Liebowitz and junior Val Ayala.
With so much talent back from last season, it’s going to be hard for the underclassmen to earn playing time, but that’s always a nice problem to have.
After the men’s water polo schedule was released, I thought it would be interesting to see what the women’s schedule would look like, if for no other reason than the fact that Head Coach Adam Wright cannot possibly be in two places at once. But, now, it all makes sense.
The women’s team will be filling in the gaps in the men’s schedule with the bulk of the schedule occurring after the men’s season is over.
The Bruins were ranked second to Southern Cal with a 19-2 record when the rest of the season was cancelled last March. With this year’s team returning almost everyone from last season, I fully expect them to be playing for the title this season.
Fresno State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are currently ranked 11th in the CWPA National Women's Varsity Top 25 Poll. So far this season, they have defeated both Fresno Pacific, 19-5, and #18 UC Davis, 12-11 in overtime.
Unlike men’s water polo, there is still a wide gap between the top teams and a team like Fresno State. I expect today’s final score to look a lot more like the Fresno Pacific final score than the UC Davis one, with UCLA coming out ahead. It should be a good way for the Bruins to dip their collective toes in the water.
#3 UCLA Women’s Water Polo (0-0)