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UCLA women’s water polo completes perfect season, wins national title

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UCLA women’s water polo completes perfect season, wins national title

Top-seeded UCLA captured its eighth NCAA women’s water polo championship and the 12th national championship in program history with a 7-4 win over No. 3 Cal on Sunday night at Spieker Aquatics Complex.

Not only did the Bruins win the title, they did it with perfection — finishing the season with a 26-0 record.

UCLA, which improved to 65-14 all-time against the Golden Bears, completed just the third undefeated season in school history (the 2005 and 2008 teams accomplished the feat with 33-0 records). Only four other teams have had perfect runs to an NCAA championship, including USC, which did it twice (2004 and 2016).

Freshmen starred for UCLA on Sunday, with Panni Szegedi scoring three goals. Fellow first-year standout Lauren Steele got the start in the cage, recording 17 saves while allowing four goals — one in each quarter.

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

The Golden Bears (19-7) struck first, but the Bruins tied it up with 15 seconds left in the first quarter on a tally from Miller.

The Bruins took their first lead on Kieckhafer’s goal at 4:59 of the second quarter. Cal’s Rozanne Voorvelt scored to even the score at 3:31, with the teams going into intermission tied at 2-2.

The second half was all UCLA.

After Rossi and  Cal’s Maddie DeMattia traded goals, Szegedi put the Bruins ahead for good 4-3 late in the third quarter.

Szegedi scored on a power play to open the fourth quarter to make it 4-2. Another power-play goal, from Smith, put UCLA up 5-2.

De Mattia pulled Cal with two with 32 seconds left, but Szegedi completed the hat trick into an empty net seconds later to seal the title.

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