The Bruin Tradition: UCLA Players Bolster US Teams for FINA 2019 World Water Polo Championships

Adam Krikorian and his players celebrate the 2017 FINA Worlds gold. Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

By Rachel Andersen, Swimming World College Intern.

As summer break winds to a close and temperatures begin to fall, the international aquatic scene is just heating up. In Gwangju, South Korea, the FINA 2019 World Aquatics Championships are raging on. Between exhilarating swim events, doping scandals, beautiful dives, and jaw dropping synchro routines, water polo has had to fight to be center stage amongst all of the other sports showcased at this championship.

Yet, despite the international nature inherent to this event, one college persists in leaving an indelible mark on the water polo competition. UCLA has 8 current and former Bruins competing and coaching at the FINA World Championships, ushering in a more competitive age for USA water polo.

On the men’s side of the competition, four Bruins have helped lead the squad to a 9th place finish at the FINA 2019 World Aquatics Championships.

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Alex Wolf with a save against USC. Photo Courtesy: Minette Rubin

In the cage, Alex Wolf, a current Redshirt Junior at UCLA, has been a consistent wall for the men’s national squad this tournament. In close games, such as the one against Australia on July 13th, Wolf came up big with six saves against the Aussie Sharks, allowing the US team to skate by with a 12-11 win. Wolf’s performance continued throughout the tournament, totaling 48 saves through the 6 games, including an astounding 10 save performance against Montenegro helping the U.S. to a 15-14 win and a 9th place finish.

On the offensive side, UCLA’s Max Irving has racked up points for the senior team game after game. In a landslide 20-3 win against South Africa to put USA in the 9th place match, Irving tallied 4 goals. Then, in their final match, Irving teamed up with fellow Bruin, Chancellor Ramirez, to score back to back goals in the fourth quarter, allowing the U.S. to take a one-goal advantage in the game.

UCLA Athletics - 2017 UCLA Men's Water Polo versus UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. Spieker Aquatic Center, Los Angeles, CA. September 15th, 2017 Copyright Don Liebig/ASUCLA 170915_MWP_0254.NEF

Max Irving. Photo Courtesy: Don Liebig

Ramirez similarly showed up for the squad throughout the tournament. Totaling five goals over six games, Ramirez was a constant support for the team, including his two scores against heavy-weight Croatia. Matt Farmer, also of UCLA, added to the US team’s offense with goals against Kasikstan and South Africa, showcasing the depth of the squad’s shooting abilities.

[A Boy from Illinois Makes It Big in California Water Polo]

On the women’s side of the tournament, four Bruin individuals have helped shape another American success story to rival the US Women’s Soccer Team.

Leading the women’s team is head coach Adam Krikorian. With 15 NCAA national championships under his belt as a player, assistant coach, and head coach at UCLA, Krikorian has translated the Bruin’s tradition of success onto the women’s national team. With multiple gold metals and a current 53-game winning streak for the women’s national team, Krikorian kept the squad’s immaculate track record running as the US beat Spain 11-6 in the finals of the FINA World Championships Friday.


Photo Courtesy: @usawp

In the pool, UCLA has produced many quality players to bolster the US team’s ranks. Among these is current junior at UCLA Maddie Musselman. Musselman has been a power house for the squad this tournament, racking up 13 goals in the 5 matches played, including an amazing 5 goal performance against the South African team.

Mussleman and former Bruin Rachel Fattal also teamed up to put US through against a tough Netherlands team, the two helping with goals in the fourth quarter to help seal out the House of Orange in a 12-9 win. Fattal has scored steadily through the tournament with 5 goals in as many games to keep the women’s team competing fiercely against all opponents.

[Goalie Carlee Kapana on UCLA Water Polo and Beyond]

Rounding out the Bruins of the women’s US team is Alys Williams, a constant offensive presence for the team. Williams will move through to the finals with the squad with 4 goals under her belt, with two of these goals coming from the semifinal game against defensive slammers, the Australian Stingers.

UCLA Athletics - 2019 UCLA Women's Water Polo versus the University of Southern California Trojans, Sunset Recreational Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. April 20th, 2019 Copyright Don Liebig/ASUCLA 190420_WWP_288.NEF

Maddie Musselman. Photo Courtesy: Don Liebig

Both in and out of the pool, the Bruins have helped to shape the success story of the US national teams this summer in Gwangju, South Korea. With astonishing offensive streaks and a wall like defense, the US is shaping up to be stronger than ever before thanks to the Bruins helping to support the team.

Adam Wright, current UCLA mens and women’s water polo coach, is delighted to see the success Bruins are having at the international level.

“Its awesome to see former or current Bruins play at the highest level. Our hope is that we’ve done our job to put them in a position to have confidence to be successful,” he said by telephone.

Wright marks UCLA’s continued presence on the national team down to two things: tradition and aspiration.


Chancellor Ramirez. Photo Courtesy: Katie Meyers

“The reality is, UCLA, long before I was there, has always had a long record of national team players. We are a program that is looking to bring in players that not only want to excel at the colligiate level, but also want to go on to represent our country. Whether it be water polo or any other sport at UCLA, its almost second nature to have national team representation.”

With the FINA Worlds now completed, the work is not yet over for our Bruins and their national team compatriots. After a pause to celebrate a third-straight world championship, they will be flying to Lima, Peru for the 2019 Pan American Games.

You’ll be sure to see the Bruins in top form as they follow through on dreams they have nurtured since walking the hallowed halls of Westwood.

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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3 years ago

Lead the article with the women they are much better than the men … just like soccer?‍♀️

cynthia curran
3 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

How true.