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Bruin Bites: #1 Women's Soccer Rolls Into the NCAA's, # 1 Men's Water Polo Claims 1 Seed in Conference Tourney

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This was a successful week for UCLA sports. The football team came up big in Seattle, and left us still on the doorstep waiting for Arizona State to stumble. And the basketball team figured out how to avoid embarrassing attendance figures- just don't open the doors when you play another team !! And on the Olympic Sports front, the incredible run of the Women's Soccer team continued, and the Men's Water Polo team moved one step closer to a potential championship run.

The Bruins are turning goal celebrations into an art form.
The Bruins are turning goal celebrations into an art form.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

--- Ally Courtnall. Annie Alvarado. Darian Jenkins (2). Sarah Killion (5). Zoey Goralski. Taylor Smith (4). Caprice Dydasco (2). Sam Mewis (5). Kylie McCarthy (5). Gabrielle Matulich.

Each of the above Bruin Women's Soccer players has scored at least one goal since the last opponent scored against UCLA. For the record, that goal was scored by Stanford in the 53rd minute. Assuming a normal amount of stoppage time and a kick-off at the scheduled 8pm start, UCLA gave up its last goal at 9:11pm on October 9 (!!).

And UCLA has given up four goals total this season. Senior midfielder Sarah Killion, senior midfielder Sam Mewis, and senior forward Kylie McCarthy have each scored more goals since 10/9 at 9:11 pm than all of UCLA's opponents combined for the entire season. And junior Taylor Smith has matched the total since 10/9 of all of UCLA's opponents combined for the season.

The final regular season game for this phenomenal group was Friday night at $C. This was a good match, since $C showed Moron Center how to market, and brought in over 10,000 fans for the game. Playing in front of a big crowd never hurts down the road. And it took until the 79th minute for the Bruins to score, as Kylie McCarthy scored on a rebound off a save. McCarthy then iced the contest with her 2nd goal in the 87th minute, with an assist from Ally Courtnall. Here is the game summary from the UCLA website.

UCLA outshot $C 24-3, and had 11 corners to -0-. So clearly, the Bruins took the match to their opponent. This is a common theme for this team. Aggressive offense, and stifling defense. The clean sheet gives senior goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland 16 shutouts on the season, which breaks her own school record. Rowland had her 52nd career shutout, which ties an NCAA record. And the season isn't over.

Next up for the Bruins will be the NCAA brackets, which will be announced tomorrow. I don't think even the NCAA could give anything less than the #1 overall seed to the Bruins. But, most importantly, UCLA will receive one of the top four seeds, so we won't need a repeat trip to some place like Chapel Hill just to make the College Cup. The first round of the tournament will begin next weekend for UCLA at Drake Stadium.

Soccer can be a cruel game, as the best team does not necessarily win- a good bounce here, a bad bounce there, and the results can change. But absent bad breaks, this team is ready to go deep in a special season.

For the record, UCLA winds up the regular season 18-0-2. The Bruins outscored their opponents 54-4, for an average score per game of 3-0. The Bruins outshot their opponents on average 19-5. This is how we do it.

---- Men's Water Polo is a sport where all the best teams compete in one conference (MPSF), and the rest of the country competes for the right to win conference titles and splash around in the shallow end at the NCAA's while the big kids duke it out for the title. This year is no exception, as the top five teams (and seven of the top eight) teams in the national rankings compete in the MPSF. And since Men's Water Polo became an NCAA sport in 1969, every national champion has come from the MPSF (including UCLA eight times).

The NCAA water polo tournament has six teams, with four reserved for conference champions and two at-large berths. The two top seeds receive a first round bye. This may sound like a small field, but it is a big step up from prior years, when it was a four team field with three conference champions and only one at-large berth.

But even with the expansion, with only three possible spots for MPSF teams, and with seven of the top eight teams in the country, going deep in the MPSF tourney is critical for an NCAA slot. And getting a favorable seed for the MPSF tourney is also critical, so that the other best teams can beat each other up before the finals. As a 1 seed, beating the 4 seed in the tourney semi's is no easy matter, but it is easier than beating the 2 or 3 seed.

And with all that in mind, the goal during the regular season is to get the #1 seed in the MPSF tourney. And UCLA accomplished that on Saturday, with a 12-8 win in Stockton over #7 Pacific. Eight different Bruins scored, with senior attacker Paul Reynolds, junior defender Anthony Daboub, redshirt freshman center Matt Farmer, and senior attacker Daniel Lenhart notching two goals each. Here is the game summary.

The Bruins concluded the Northern California road trip with a non-conference win on Sunday over UC Davis 16-4. To show how much the national quality is concentrated in the MPSF, UC Davis is the #14 team in the country, and the Bruins basically blew them out of the water. 10 different Bruins scored, led by senior Cristiano Mirachi's hat trick. Coach Adam Wright was able to use his reserves during the contest, including the chance to give a breather to goalkeeper Garrett Danner.

With the two wins, UCLA moves to 24-2 on the season. More importantly, the Saturday win gives the Bruins a perfect 7-0 record in conference play, with one more match to play- a home contest this Saturday night (7 pm) against Long Beach State. UCLA's 7-0 record puts the Bruins up by one game against Stanford's 6-1 mark. And UCLA owns the tiebreaker, having defeated Stanford 7-6 last month. This is how the Bruins have clinched the #1 seed for the MPSF tourney.

The MPSF tourney, by the way, will be in Long Beach, starting on Friday, November 21. The Bruins have not won the NCAA Men's Water Polo championship since 2004, when Adam Krikorian was the coach. Krikorian was already the coach when Doughnut took over in Moron Center. So Doughnut was able to pad his bio with Krikorian, and Doughnut's coach has not won since Krikorian left to take over the US National Women's team program. No time like the present to start another NCAA run in this sport. We are overdue.

That's your Bites for this Monday morning. Please feel free to add your comments, as we celebrate what is shaping up to be a special fall season in Olympic Sports for UCLA.