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UCLA Bruin Bites: Women's Water Polo Sinks the Trojans

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It was the last week of the regular season for several of our teams with each of them competing in crucial contests. While both of our tennis teams came up short, our men's volleyball team claimed a postseason berth with a big road win, and our women's water polo team kept alive its winning streak against Southern Cal.

@UCLAWaterPolo

Women's Water Polo

Our second-ranked Bruins played host to the third-ranked Trojans at Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday. It was a match between two teams tied for second in the MPSF, though neither team had a chance of passing the first-place Cardinal because Stanford held the head-to-head tiebreaker against both teams. Nevertheless, with bragging rights on the line, the contest had the feel of a tournament game.

It took just over 30 seconds for the Bruins to take a lead that they would never relinquish. Junior Kodi Hill scored the opener for UCLA, and four minutes later, junior Alys Williams doubled the Bruins' lead with a power play goal. The Trojans' Monica Vavic halved the lead with a 6-on-5 goal as the first quarter came to a close.

The Bruins were first on the scoreboard in the second quarter. All-American junior Rachel Fattal netted UCLA's third goal, and a few minutes later, Alys Williams took advantage of a 6-on-5 to score her second of the game. UCLA led 4-1 heading into halftime.

The Trojans cut sharply into the Bruins' lead in the opening minutes of the third. Hayley McKelvey scored after about a minute, and 30 seconds later, Vavic scored her second for USC on a power play. Suddenly USC was within one.

Rachel Fattal put an end to the Southern Cal scoring run when she rattled the cage with about 2 and a half minutes left in the quarter. However, in the final seconds of the third, USC pulled within one again courtesy of a 6-on-5.

With the Bruins holding a one-goal margin at the start of the final quarter, sophomore Mackenzie Barr scored a big goal in the opening minute of the fourth. A little more than a minute later, Kodi Hill scored her second of the day to extend the Bruins' lead to 7-4.

The UCLA maintained its three-goal lead until a little over 2 minutes remained. A 5-meter penalty shot by Vavic left the Trojans trailing by 2, but when Rachel Fattal scored her third just 30 seconds later, the Trojans had run out of time. Fattal added a fourth with 30 seconds left on the clock to make the final score UCLA 9, USC 5.

Senior goalkeeper Sami Hill, playing her final home game for UCLA, finished with eight saves.

With the victory over Southern Cal, UCLA finished the regular season in second place in the MPSF with a 5-1 record. The Bruins' overall record is 21-2.

As the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, the Bruins will square off against Cal State Bakersfield on Friday morning (10:30 AM PDT) at Arizona State's Mona Plummer Aquatic Center.

Men's Volleyball

Our 12th-ranked men's volleyball team was in Palo Alto on Friday night for a crucial match against #14 Stanford. With a win, the Bruins would lock down the final MPSF tournament berth, while a loss would seriously jeopardize UCLA's postseason hopes.

Coach Speraw's young squad rose to the occasion against Stanford, defeating the Cardinal in straight sets, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20.

(Video courtesy of Ted Wang, a special contributor to Off the Block.)

There was a lot to like about the Bruins' performance. UCLA had a fantastic .430 attack percentage for the match and managed to maintain a relatively consistent level of hitting efficiency throughout. And for the first time this season, I thought the Bruins passed the ball well from start to finish. In fact, at the conclusion of the match, UCLA had committed no errors in receiving serve.

Serving remains an area that needs a bit of work, although it too showed improvement. The Bruins dominated at the net, outpacing the Cardinal in blocks by a factor of three. Best of all, it was a mature, team-oriented performance.

Freshman J.T. Hatch once again led UCLA with 16 kills and 17.5 points. Fellow freshman Jake Arnitz added 12 kills and 13 points, and the Bruins' third freshman attacker, opposite Christian Hessenauer, chipped in with seven kills.

UCLA was productive through the middle too. Trent Kersten collected eight kills while hitting .800, and sophomore Mitch Stahl tacked on five kills.

Freshman setter Eric Matheis, who continues to start due to the departure of Steve O'Dell and the season-ending injury to Hagen Smith, tallied 45 assists, and once again demonstrated a growing maturity in his management of the match.

The win secures eighth place in the MPSF for UCLA (13-13, 9-13). The Bruins now face the enormous challenge of battling second-ranked UC Irvine in the opening round of the MPSF tournament. As the conference's regular season champions and #1 seed, the Anteaters hold home court advantage throughout the tournament and will be focused on locking up an NCAA tournament berth.

The Bruins' MPSF tournament quarterfinal match is scheduled for Saturday night at 7 PM PDT. Please join us as we follow the action on Saturday night.

Also, congratulations to freshman J.T. Hatch and Jake Arnitz for their selection to the Freshman All-American Team!

Women's Tennis

On Thursday, our fifth-ranked women's tennis team had to travel across town to battle second-ranked USC, with the Pac-12 title going to the winner.

The Bruins took early control of the match. Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady took the first doubles contest handily (8-3), and UCLA claimed the doubles point when Chanelle Van Nguyen and Kristin Wiley won 8-4 on court 3.

In singles, UCLA jumped out to an early lead with first set victories on four of the six courts. And when Robin Anderson came from a set down to win 3-6, 6-0, 7-5 on court 1, the Bruins led 2-0, and seemed to be on the way to an upset of Southern Cal.

The outlook for the Bruins continued to be bright when Catherine Harrison finished strong on court 5 to win her matchup 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. UCLA led 3-0, and needed just one more win in any of the four remaining duels to win the match and conference title.

But that's when the wheels came off for UCLA. Chanelle Van Nguyen dropped her match 2-6, 6-7(5) to give USC their first point of the day. Then Kaitlin Ray lost 6-4, 5-7, 4-6 to give the Trojans their second point, and that was followed by Jennifer Brady's collapse on court 2 (6-2, 5-7, 2-6) to level the match at 3-3.

That left the match and the Pac-12 title to be decided on court 4 where Kyle McPhillips was battling in the third set after failing to close out her matchup in a second-set tiebreaker.  McPhillips fought off four match points in the final set before eventually losing 7-5, 6-7(5), 4-6.

The disappointing loss to Southern Cal leaves UCLA's record at (18-4, 8-2) and gives them a third place finish in the Pac-12, two games behind the Trojans and one game behind Cal.

By the way, congratulations to the Trojans for holding onto the Pac-12 trophy for five seconds.

UCLA is competing in the Pac-12 Championships this week, but as individuals rather than as a team. Bruins Nation will keep up with the action as part of our Pac-12 Championship week coverage. The women begin play on Thursday, although the Pac-12 hasn't released the draw yet.

Men's Tennis

While the women's match against Southern Cal across town was in its final stages, our 19th-ranked men's tennis team was hosting the ninth-ranked Trojans at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The match marked the final regular season competition for both teams and, as with the women's match, would potentially determine the Pac-12 title.

The Bruins started the match strongly, with the team of Dennis Mkrtchian & Austin Rapp winning on court 3, 6-1, and Joseph DiGiulio & Karue Sell defeating the Trojan pair on court 2, 6-3. UCLA claimed the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead.

The Bruins' lead quickly vanished in singles play. Only UCLA's number 1, Mackenzie McDonald, managed to win a point; he won 6-3, 6-3. In fairness to Karue Sell, he was leading in his matchup when USC won its fourth point of the day.

With the loss, the Bruins finished the regular season with a 5-2 record in the Pac-12, which places them third, tied with Cal, in the final conference standings. The Bruins now stand at 14-8 overall.

UCLA will begin Pac-12 tournament action tomorrow at 3 PM PDT against Washington.

Please check back tomorrow for a preview of UCLA's quarterfinal contest against the Huskies. It will be the first day of Bruins Nation's coverage of Pac-12 Championship week.

Finally, congratulations to Samantha Peszek! If you followed uclaluv's superb coverage of our gymnastics team in the NCAA tournament, you'll know that Samantha won the NCAA all-around and balance beam titles this past weekend at the NCAA Championships.

Now, in addition to her NCAA titles, Samantha has been named a finalist for the Honda Sports Award.

Thank you, Samantha, for representing the four letters so well!

Go BRUINS!