May 24, 2024

UCLA claimed its first NCAA women’s polo title since 2009 with a 7-4 win over California on Sunday at Berkeley, completing its first undefeated season since 2008 to win the program’s seventh national championship.

The Bruins (26-0) are the first team since USC in 2016 to complete a perfect season and only the fifth in NCAA women’s water polo history.

The title is UCLA’s 123rd overall in all sports, trailing only Stanford, which has 135.

After guiding the UCLA men’s program to four national titles in 15 seasons as the head coach, Adam Wright won his first NCAA championship at the helm of the women’s team. He took over both programs in 2017 after the women’s team had advanced to three national championship games in four seasons but had no trophy to show for it.

With the composure of a coach who has made the championship dive before, Wright took off his sneakers at the final horn and set them on the bench. He gathered several players and assistant coaches in a group hug on the pool deck, wrapped Cal head coach Coralie Simmons in a consoling hug then dove head first into the pool.

“Couldn’t be more happy for UCLA women’s water polo to be back on top,” Wright said on the ESPNU broadcast.

Freshman Lauren Steele anchored UCLA’s defense with 17 saves in the cage. The former Orange Lutheran star graduated from high school early to join the Bruins in December.

“Just an absolute stud,” Wright said. “Changed the complexion of UCLA women’s water polo.”

Standing in front of an oversized poster of the bracket, teammates waited for Steele to finish her on-camera interview before continuing the championship celebration. Steele did the honor of advancing the Bruins through the bracket, sticking UCLA’s blue badge on the national championship line.

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