Szegedi hat trick sparks UCLA women to 7-4 victory over Cal in NCAA water polo title match

Published May. 13, 2024 12:10 a.m. ET

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — UCLA freshman Panni Szegedi scored three goals in the final 8:43 for her second hat trick in a row and the unbeaten and top-ranked Bruins pulled away for a 7-4 victory over the third-seeded California Golden Bears, winning their eighth NCAA women's water polo championship on Sunday night at the Spieker Aquatics Complex.

Szegedi and coach Adam Wright helped the Bruins (26-0) claim their first title since a record streak of five in a row from 2005-09.

Cal (19-7) grabbed a 1-0 lead at the 2:36 mark of the first quarter on senior Maryn Dempsey's team-leading 48th goal of the season. UCLA pulled even when Anneliese Miller scored with 15 seconds left in the period.

UCLA jumped in front with 4:59 left in the second quarter on a goal by Natasha Kieckhafer. The Golden Bears answered with 3:31 left on a goal by Rozanne Voorvelt to knot the score at 2-2 at halftime.


Genoa Rossi scored 26 seconds into the third quarter to put the Bruins on top 3-2. Maddie DeMattia scored on the power play after an exclusion on Rossi to get Cal even at 2:56. But Szegedi found the net with 43 seconds to go and UCLA took a 4-3 lead into the final period and never trailed again.

The Bruins took a two-goal lead with 5:07 left to play when Szegedi scored the team's first power-play goal on its sixth opportunity. Taylor Smith followed with a second straight power-play goal to make it 6-3 with 2:04 remaining.

DeMattia picked up her second goal of the match with 32 seconds left to get Cal within two, but Szegedi polished off her hat trick with an empty-net goal 11 seconds later to wrap up the victory.

Szegedi's three-goal effort gives her 39 on the season, tying her with sophomore Anna Pearson for the team lead.

Cal managed to connect on just 4 of 35 shots against Bruins goalkeeper Lauren Steele. Bears keeper Isabel Williams saw UCLA hit on 7 of 34 attempts.

UCLA beat two-time defending champion and fourth-seeded Stanford 10-8 in the semifinals behind three goals from Szegedi. Cal advanced with a 9-6 victory over second-seeded Hawaii. Dempsey had a hat trick to lead the Bears.

UCLA beat Stanford for the championship in 2001 — the sport's first season. The Bruins lost in the title match to Stanford the next season before beating the Cardinal for the 2003 championship. UCLA lost to Stanford in the title match in 2014, 2015 and 2017 and lost to the USC Trojans in 2021. Stanford has won nine championships and USC has claimed six. The Cardinal, Trojans and Bruins account for all 23 titles.

Cal's Coralie Simmons became the first female head coach to lead her team to the championship match. The Golden Bears only other trip to the final was in 2011, losing to Stanford. The event was not played in 2020 because of the pandemic.


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