UCLA Women’s Water Polo Completes Perfect Season With NCAA Championship

Lauren Steele-ucla
Courtesy: UCLA Athletics

The UCLA women’s water polo team completed a perfect season and claimed the NCAA Championship on Sunday at Spieker Aquatics Complex.

The top-ranked Bruins defeated No. 3 Cal 7-4 in the finals to finish the season 26-0 and earn its eighth NCAA title in program history, the first under coach Adam Wright, who had previously won four titles with the UCLA men.

It was the third time the Bruins have finished a season undefeated, joining the 2005 (33-0) and 2008 (33-0) teams. Only five squads ever have had perfect runs to NCAA Championships, with USC doing it twice (2004 and 2016).

UCLA women’s water polo has won 12 national championships in all, with four predating the first NCAA title.

Panni Szegedi scored three goals to lead the Bruins. Fellow freshman Lauren Steele got the start in the cage and totaled 17 saves while allowing four goals.

Also scoring for the Bruins were freshman Natasha Kieckhafer, senior Anneliese Miller and sophomores Anna Pearson, Genoa Rossi and Taylor Smith.

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How it happened

UCLA struck first (2:36) for the first goal of the game, but the Bruins tied it up with 0:15 left to end the scoring in the period with a strike from the front court by Miller.

The Bruins took their first lead of the game on a goal from freshman Natasha Kieckhafer (4:59) off a feed from Pearson to make it 2-1. California’s Rozanne Voorvelt scored (3:31) to end the scoring in the second period with the game tied at halftime, 2-2.

Sophomore Genoa Rossi put the Bruins up 3-2 when she scored off a feed from senior Malia Allen (7:34). Cal’s Maddie DeMattia tied the game 3-3 (2:56) with a one-timer on a power play. Szegedi would put the Bruins back in front, 4-3, with a nearside skipper (0:43).

The first multi-goal lead of the game came when Szegedi made the most of a six-on-five chance (5:07). The lead was extended once more with an extra player in the pool, as Smith got on the board to double up the Golden Bears (2:04). DeMattia cut into the deficit momentarily with her second (0:32), but Szegedi completed her hat trick seconds later to close out the scoring.

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