Feb. 22, 1998
What could be better than one national championship? Two national championships. And with two titles already in hand the 1998 UCLA Bruins are aiming for yet another. In only three years of intercollegiate status, the Bruins have captured two National Collegiate crowns. This year, the desire to bring home the third consecutive championship is higher than ever. With the squad's best players returning and key recruits ready to make their mark at UCLA, the stage is set for a Bruin three-peat.
The entire starting line from last season's championship team is back in Westwood, and the new recruits will add depth to the highly experienced group. However, with so many talented players, starting has not proven to be an important issue. Rather, the team will focus on the interchangeability of a variety of lineups to wear down its opponents. Eight returnees and three freshmen are likely to get the nod for significant playing time.
The veterans are led by first-team All-Americans Nicolle Payne and Coralie Simmons. Goalkeeper Payne, the 1996 Player of the Year, and playmaker Simmons, the 1997 Player of the Year, are fresh from US National Team experience at the World Championships in Australia. Both women are also likely to represent the United States in the inaugural competition of Olympic women's water polo in the year 2000.
According to the coaches, Payne is a main focal point, not only for the opposition, but also for the team. Says assistant coach Adam Krikorian,