Fourth-Seeded UCLA Heads to Michigan for NCAA Championship
LOS ANGELES – No. 4 UCLA (23-5) opens the 2022 NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship as the four-seed and will face UC Irvine (22-6) in the quarterfinals in Game 2 on Friday, May 6 at 2:00 p.m. EDT/11:00 a.m. PDT at Michigan's Canham Natatorium. The NCAA will provide a live stream on NCAA.com and Michigan will provide live stats on The FOSH.
This is the 32nd meeting between UCLA and UC Irvine with the Bruins leading the series 31-0. The Bruins won the only meeting this year at home, 14-8, on Mar. 11. A total of five Bruins that included redshirt senior Maddie Musselman, senior Val Ayala, senior Katrina Drake, junior Hannah Palmer, and freshman Nicole Struss led UCLA in scoring with two goals apiece. But the day belonged to Musselman, who became UCLA's all-time leading scorer with the 238th career goal on a power play at the 6:23 mark of the third period. She scored the final goal of the game with 2:51 left in the fourth period. Musselman passed Kelly Rulon's (2003, 2005-07) career total of 237 goals. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips got the start in the cage and went the distance, recording nine saves while allowing eight goals.
UCLA IN THE NCAAs
This is UCLA's 20th appearance in the NCAA Championship and 26th overall Championship appearance. The Bruins have won 11 national titles, seven of which are NCAA Championships. UCLA enters the 2022 NCAA Championship with an all-time record of 40-12 (.769) in NCAA Tournament games. The last national title for the Bruins came in 2009 and ended a consecutive streak of five straight NCAA titles by UCLA in the sport of Women's Water Polo.
SIX BRUINS EARN EIGHT MPSF HONORS
Six different Bruins received eight honors from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, as announced by the conference office. Redshirt senior attacker Maddie Musselman was named the 2022 MPSF Player of the Year and was the only Bruin named First-Team All-MPSF and to the MPSF All-Tournament Team. Musselman became the first Bruin since Sami Hill (2014) and eighth overall to be named the Player of the Year and also became the first woman in UCLA Water Polo history to become a four-time First-Team selection. Senior center Ava Johnson earned All-MPSF honors for the second time in her career. She was named a Second-Team All-MPSF performer after earning First-Team honors in 2021. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Georgia Phillips was named Second-Team All-MPSF for the second time in her career (2020). Junior utility Abbi Hill garnered Honorable Mention All-MPSF accolades after being named First-Team in 2020. Two Bruin freshmen were on the MPSF All-Newcomer Team, which included Emma Lineback and Molly Renner.
MUSSELMAN BECOMES UCLA'S ALL-TIME LEADING SCORER
Redshirt senior Maddie Musselman scored two goals in the 14-8 win over No. 6 UC Irvine (Mar. 11) to become UCLA's all-time leading scorer with her 238th career goal on a power play at the 6:23 mark of the third period. She also scored the final goal of the game with 2:51 left in the fourth period. Musselman (now with 250 goals) passed Kelly Rulon's (2003, 2005-07) career total of 237 goals. The 250.career goals also ranks 11th all-time in MPSF history. She also ranks 4th in career steals on the UCLA charts with 162, needing six to pass Katie Rulon for third place (167). The all-time leader at UCLA is Rachel Fattal with 188.
- What Adam Wright had to say about the record
"I'm very happy for her. You talk about the history of this program, that's a pretty big-time record. It's nice to be a part of it, but more than the record, I'm proud of the impact that she has had on this program in all facets."
- What Maddie Musselman had to say about the achievement
"It's exciting but I think the biggest thing for me is that I've looked up to the people on that list for a long time. I tried to emulate them as a player. I watched them in the Olympic Games when I was growing up and just to be on the same list as them, no matter what number I am at on that list, is something that I'm very humbled by. To be a part of that legacy is huge."
THE RETURN OF MUSSELMAN
After a two-year hiatus to train for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games with Team USA, senior attacker Maddie Musselman has returned to complete her senior season at UCLA. Musselman tied for the team scoring lead with 18 goals in the Tokyo Olympics, leading Team USA to its third-straight gold medal (her second) and was named the MVP of the Olympic Games. It is the fourth time in her career that she has been named the MVP of a major international tournament as she was named the MVP of the FINA World League Super Final in 2019 and again in 2021. She was also named the MVP of the FINA World Championships in 2017. Additionally, the three-time First-Team All-American was also named the 2021 Women's Total Player of the Year by (Total Waterpolo).
WRIGHT SIGNS NEW SIX-YEAR CONTRACT
UCLA has signed men's and women's water polo head coach Adam Wright to a new six-year contract that will start in July of 2022, it was announced on March 22 by Martin Jarmond, the Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics. Wright was named the head coach of the UCLA Men's Water Polo team in 2009 and became the Bruins' Women's Water Polo head coach in 2017.
He currently has the Bruin women ranked second in the nation with an overall record of 21-1 and 3-0 in the MPSF. Wright has an overall record of 102-23 (.816) with the women's program, guiding UCLA back to the NCAA Championship game last year for the first time since 2017.
Wright just concluded his 13th season as UCLA's head men's water polo coach in 2021 with an overall record of 296-58 (.836) and an MPSF mark of 59-23 (.719). His teams earned perfect APR (Academic Progress Rate) scores of 1,000 in 2014, 2015 and 2016, all while winning NCAA Championships in 2014, 2015 and 2017. He won his fourth NCAA Championship with the men's team in 2021 (for the 2020 season).
- What UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond had to say about Coach Wright
"It takes a special kind of leader to build both a men's and a women's water polo program, and to sustain them at an elite level simultaneously. Adam is that leader. He brings out the best in the young men and women he coaches. Beyond teaching, developing and inspiring our water polo student-athletes, Adam's attitude and team-first mentality within on our athletic department are invaluable. He is a Bruin Hall of Famer, and Westwood is where he belongs. I'm thrilled to have him here for a long time."
Four of UCLA's seven 2021 ACWPC All-Americans return for the 2022 season. Senior center Ava Johnson headlined the list of Bruin selections as the lone First-Team honoree. Junior attacker Hannah Palmer was the only Bruin to earn Second-Team honors. The Bruins landed two on the Third-Team list which included senior attacker Val Ayala and goalkeeper Jahmea Bent (graduated). Three more Bruins earned Honorable Mention All-America accolades that included defender Brooke Maxson (graduated), junior utility Abbi Hill and attacker Lexi Liebowitz (graduated). Maddie Musselman is also a three-time All-American (2017-19).
Johnson was fifth on the team in scoring with 34 points (28 goals, six assists). Her 28 goals ranked tied for second on the team. She led the squad in drawn exclusions (32) and field blocks (nine) and tied for fourth on the team in steals (nine). Palmer led the team in scoring with 62 points (9th in the MPSF) with a team-high 36 goals and 26 assists (tied for fifth in the MPSF). She was second on the team defensively with 14 steals. Ayala was fourth on the team in scoring with 36 points (20 goals, 16 assists). Her 20 goals ranked fifth on the squad while the 16 assists ranked third. She led the Bruins defensively with a team-high 17 steals while ranking second with eight field blocks. Hill finished second on the team in scoring with 47 points (28 goals, 19 assists). The 28 goals and 19 assists each ranked second on the team. She also had nine steals (tied for fourth on the squad), six drawn exclusions, and three field blocks.
RETURNING ALL-MPSF SELECTIONS
Four of the Bruins' five players that earned All-MPSF plaudits in 2021 return for the 2022 campaign. The group includes First-Team selections senior center Ava Johnson and junior attacker Hannah Palmer. Johnson was also named to the 2021 MPSF/KAP7 All-Tournament Team. Senior Brooke Maxson was named honorable mention for the second straight year and graduated out of the program at year's end. Two Bruin sophomores landed on the MPSF All-Newcomer Team last year, which included attackers Malia Allen and Anneliese Miller.
The Bruins have three goalkeepers on the 2022 roster that all saw action last season, led by redshirt junior Georgia Phillips who played in 10 games (starting eight) while going 5-3 on the year. Junior Quinn Winter and sophomore Sydney Chiang each only played a quarter in the Bruins' season-opening win at No. 11 Fresno State (Feb. 14) a year ago.
For the third-consecutive season, the UCLA women's water polo roster is completely made up of student-athletes that are from the state of California (28).
WRIGHT ON DECK
Adam Wright is in his fifth season as UCLA's head women's water polo coach in 2022 with an overall record of 104-27 (.794) and an MPSF mark of 21-10 (.677). He recently won his 100th game at the helm of the women's program with a 9-8 victory at No. 4 California (Mar. 5, 2022). On July 20, 2017, then-UCLA Director of Athletics, Dan Guerrero, announced that Wright would guide both the UCLA men's and women's water polo teams.
Overall Record: 15-5 | Final Ranking: 2nd | NCAA Finish: 2nd | MPSF Tournament Finish: 3rd
UCLA finished the season at 15-5 overall and 9-3 in the MPSF in the COVID-limited season of 2021 in head coach Adam Wright's fourth season at the helm of the program. The Bruins went defeated every team it played at least once, including handing NCAA Champion USC its only loss of the season at home, 13-6, on the UCLA's "Senior Day" (April 25). The Bruins also split a pair of games at No. 2 Stanford, dropping the first one 11-12 (Mar. 27) before rallying to win the second meeting, 11-10 (Mar. 28). Stanford beat UCLA in the semifinals of the MPSF Championiship, 13-8 (May 1), but the Bruins beat the Cardinal in the semifinals of the NCAA Champioinship, 9-7 (May 15) before falling to the Trojans in the title match. UCLA would capture third place at the MPSF Championship with a 12-7 win at No. 5 Arizona State (May 2).
UCLA IN THE CWPA POLL
The Bruins slid one spot to No. 4 in the 2022 CWPA National Women's Varsity Top 25 Poll (89 points), released on Apr. 27.
|2022 WOMEN'S VARSITY TOP 25 (Week 14 - Apr. 27)|
|Rank||Team||Week 13 Poll||Points|
|9 (T)||Long Beach State||10||65|
|9 (T)||Arizona State||9||65|
|11||UC San DIego||12||59|
|15||San José State||13 (T)||43|
|16||Loyola Marymount||18 (T)||39|
|17||UC Santa Barbara||18 (T)||38|
|20 (T)||San Diego State||21||23|