NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals
#2 UCLA Women's Water Polo (24-4)
Opponent: #10 UC San Diego (27-9)
When: 12:00 PM PDT, Friday, May 13, 2016
Where: Spieker Aquatics Center, Los Angeles, CA
Video: NCAA Live Video
Live Stats: The FOSH
UCLA has something to prove over the course of the next few days. Not to me, and not to other UCLA Water Polo fans, but to themselves.
The Bruins were subpar in the MPSF Tournament. Particularly against Stanford in the semifinals with a potential rematch with the Trojans on the line. UCLA simply didn't play with the intensity and focus that it had shown just a week earlier in a 9-8 sudden death overtime win against the Cardinal in the MPSF regular season finale.
In their rematch with the Cardinal in the semis, the Bruins couldn't get their offense untracked, consistently coming up empty in power play opportunities. I think it's fair to say that it was probably the least impressive performance I've seen from Coach Brooks squad over the past several seasons.
Of course, that's in the past now, and we have to hope that UCLA learned from that painful loss. Although there are no easy games at this stage of the competition, the second-ranked Bruins should be able to use today's quarterfinal match against the 10th-ranked UCSD Tritons as a tune-up for a likely showdown with #3 Stanford tomorrow.
This tournament may give UCLA a chance to avenge every loss it has suffered this season. Assuming the Bruins defeat UCSD today, the Bruins will get a rematch against Stanford. Then, if the Bruins get past the Cardinal, there's a good chance that their opponent will be USC, the team that has inflicted three of the Bruins' four losses this season.
That also demonstrates how quickly the level of competition ramps up in small NCAA tournaments. If the Bruins aren't razor sharp by the second game of the tournament, it could very well prove to be their last game of the tournament. The margin for error shrinks considerably by day 2 of the tournament.
Today's game against UCSD isn't just about winning. It's also about preparing for what's to come. The Bruins have had several previews; they know what they need to do.