This afternoon, the #3 UCLA women’s water polo team opens the 2019 season at the UCSB Winter Invitational with a game against the #18 Cal State Northridge Matadors at 3:15 pm PT. Unfortunately, there is basically no coverage of today’s opener. But it does give us the opportunity to take a look at this year’s team.
UCLA had three seniors on last year’s team. Alexis Angermund, Devin Grab and Nicole Reynolds have all completed their eligibility and will not be back this season. Additionally, Hannah Storum, Jenna Hurst, and Haley Evans, each of whom would have been a junior, have all left the program.
Finally, assistant coach Dustin Litvak left the program to become the head coach of the men’s water polo team at Princeton.
Head Coach Adam Wright has brought in nine freshmen, all from California, for the coming season. The class is led by goalkeeper Georgia Phillips from Clovis North HS in Fresno. Five of the new freshmen are attackers. They are Val Ayala from Foothill HS in Anaheim, Bella Baia from Mater Dei HS in Orange County, Parker Hoffman from Corona del Mar HS in Newport Beach, Katrina Drake from Miramonte HS in Orinda and Faith Dunn from Menlo-Atherton HS in Menlo Park. The final three freshmen are all centers. Skylar Savar was a teammate of Drake’s at Miramonte while Ava Johnson comes to Westwood from Las Lomas HS in Walnut Creek and Bella Wentzel played last season at Acalanes HS in Lafayette.
Christopher Lee joins the staff as an assistant coach, replacing Litvak. Lee spent the last two seasons as an assistant at UC Berkeley. Lee has been coaching since 2000 when he was named women’s water polo head coach at Penn while still an undergraduate.
Well, the short answer is everyone else. That, of course, includes senior goalkeeper Carlee Kapana. The core of the Bruins are nine seniors including Grace Reego, Lizette Rozeboom and Rachel Whitelegge. UCLA’s four juniors are Maddie Musselman, Brooke Maxson, Emily Skelly and Bronte Halligan.
The Bruins are ranked 3rd in the CWPA preseason poll behind #1 Southern Cal and #2 Stanford. Last season, UCLA fell 10-6 in the NCAA Semifinals to eventual champion Southern Cal and head coach Adam Wright will look to improve on that. The Bruins are also picked to finish third in the MSPF, again, behind Southern Cal and Stanford.
Of course, as is usually the case, the MPSF is the most competive conference in water polo and the MPSF standings will likely determine NCAA Tournament seedings. So, if the Bruins can improve on their 2-3 conference record last year, they should get a better NCAA seeding. One wildcard that could come into play in the MPSF this season is the fact that Indiana has joined the conference for women’s water polo. The Hoosiers finished fourth in the CWPA last season and are predicted to finish sixth of seven teams in the MPSF this year.
With a little luck, hopefully, Wright can bring another championship home to Westwood this season.