The UCLA Women’s Water Polo team kicks off their 2018 season this morning by hosting the UCLA Invitational.
The Bruins open the season ranked in a second place tie with Southern Cal and behind #1 Stanford.
While some might view this season as a season of change after last year’s team lost in the NCAA title game, I think it’s really more a matter of the team reloading.
And that starts at the top. Women’s head coach Brandon Brooks has been replaced and Men’s head coach Adam Wright has added the Women’s head coaching duties to his schedule as well.
So, who else have the Bruins lost? It’s a pretty long list as there were seven seniors last season. Four of last year’s seniors were starters. Rachel Fattal, Kodi Hill, Alexa Tielmann, and Alys Williams will need to be replaced in the starting lineup while Mackenzie Barr, Aubrie Monahan and Kelsey O’Brien are the other seniors who graduated last year.
This year’s team adds four freshmen and one transfer. The freshmen are goalkeeper Jahmea Bent and attackers Lexi Liebowitz, Myna Simmons and Roxy Wheaton. Center Hannah Zari is a transfer from American River College, where she served as the team’s captain for two years.
Another “newcomer” is Bruin alum Kori Hill. Hill was hired as an assistant coach by head coach Adam Wright following her graduation last year.
The Bruins return a solid core from last year’s team, which is really what makes it a matter of reloading, rather than rebuilding. UCLA will be led by Maddie Musselman, who scored a freshman-record 69 goals last season. Bronte Halligan also returns for her sophomore season after being named to the MPSF All-Newcomer Team last year.
Junior Carlee Kapana returns for her second full season in goal while senior Alexis Angermund returns to anchor the defense. Joining Musselman and Halligan on the attack will be senior Devin Grab, who returns this year after an injury limited her to just 14 games last season, and junior Lizette Rozeboom, who scored 24 goals in just 20 games last year.
There’s a reason Brandon Brooks is no longer coaching this team and that’s likely got to do with the fact that last year’s team was the best women’s water polo team in the country, but failed to win the title.
This year’s team may not be quite as talented as last year’s because the four starters contributed so much to the team’s success, but there’s little doubt that the Bruins’ roster is just loaded with so much talent that I would be surprised if this team doesn’t make it back to the NCAA Championship game.
Will they be able to win it all this time? Well, that remains to be seen, but the talent is there and I expect Adam Wright will maximize that.