The #UCLA women face @CalWWPolo today at 3:30 pm PT in the NCAA semifinals. http://t.co/s5T8wYwW97 pic.twitter.com/ZYhOahGhzF— UCLA Water Polo (@UCLAWaterPolo) May 9, 2015
Opponent: #4 California (20-7)
When: Saturday, May 9, 3:30 PM PDT
Where: Avery Aquatics Center, Palo Alto, CA
Watch Online: NCAA Live
Live Stats: The Fosh
UCLA Resources: UCLA Official Tournament Preview | UCLA Notes
NCAA Resources: NCAA Tournament Program | NCAA Bracket
The road to #113 becomes much more difficult today as the #1 Bruins battle the #4 Golden Bears in a rematch of the MPSF Championship game. California has an explosive offense, so the Bruins will have to be in top form this afternoon.
The Bruins Defeat the Tritons
In UCLA's opening round match against the Tritons, the Bruins somehow managed to hit the frame of the goal as often as they hit the back of the net. Against the Tritons, it didn't matter. UCLA locked down defensively, holding UCSD to two goals. Meanwhile, the Bruins put the ball past the Triton goalkeeper often enough to claim a very comfortable 9-2 victory. In fact, Coach Brandon Brooks gave his reserves plenty of playing time, so the UCLA starters should be well-rested for today's contest against Cal.
Looking for highlight footage from UCLA's win over UC San Diego? We've gotcha covered. WATCH: http://t.co/kEK9pYniqe— UCLA Water Polo (@UCLAWaterPolo) May 9, 2015
Sami Hill was terrific in goal for the Bruins, although her defense deserves a lot of credit for giving her a relatively easy afternoon. Emily Donohoe, Kelsey O'Brien and Devin Grab each scored a brace for the Bruins. Alys Williams, Rachel Fattal, and Mackenzie Barr were the other UCLA scorers.
The Golden Bears Advance...Barely
As I indicated in the preview to yesterday's quarterfinal match against the Tritons, there are four elite teams in women's water polo this season. Each of those teams (UCLA, Stanford, USC, and Cal) advanced to the semifinals. However, unlike the other three advancing teams, Cal found itself in a dogfight in its quarterfinal match.
Against the Anteaters yesterday, the Golden Bears found it very difficult to score against UCI's defense. The Anteaters took an early lead in the game, but Cal came back with a couple of goals from UCLA nemesis Roser Tarrago and a goal from Dora Antal to take a 3-1 lead into the first break.
When Cal scored a fourth goal early in the second quarter, it looked like Cal was on its way to an easy victory, but the Anteaters fought back with two goals within the next three minutes.
It was 4-3 at the half, and it stayed that way until midway through the third quarter. Two Anteater goals within the span of three minutes gave UCI its first lead of the game, but it didn't last long. Antal evened the score with a power play goal just 30 seconds later.
The match remained deadlocked until there was less than three minutes were left in the game. Kelly McKee then scored the winner for the Golden Bears, and Cal advanced to the semis after a physically draining battle.
What to Expect
In the MPSF championship game, the Bruins did a good job of containing Cal's prolific scorer Dora Antal, but Cal's other threat, Roser Tarrago, caused UCLA's defense a lot of problems. However, I suspect that Coach Brooks will follow a similar game plan today. That means that the Bruins will press high against Cal and play their usual aggressive defense.
Unlike yesterday, the Bruins can't afford to be wasteful in attack. Against the Tritons, the Bruins failed to convert several easy opportunities, and they didn't impress when they had a player advantage. Part of that is due to the fact that Coach Brooks gave a lot of playing time to his reserves, but the Bruins need to be very sharp against Cal.
This will be UCLA's fourth game against the Golden Bears this season. UCLA won the previous three encounters, but the Bruins' margin of victory in the MPSF title game two weeks ago was a single goal. The Bruins can't afford anything less than a top-notch performance today.
I think the Bruins will rise to the occasion this afternoon. UCLA has the better team, and they have leaders with plenty of experience. Unless UCLA gives away a lot of penalties and power play opportunities, I expect the Bruins to win by three or more goals.