Fullen has right stuff

WATER POLO: Bruins junior, in her first year as starter, has anchored defense as UCLA tries for fourth straight NCAA ring.

May 09, 2008|By Matt Szabo

Water polo is a sport that requires quick reflexes.

For a goalie like UCLA junior Brittany Fullen, that means split-second decisions on stopping a whizzing yellow ball that’s sometimes directed straight at her face.

Fullen, who graduated from Corona del Mar High in 2005, could handle it. She did so for three years for the Sea Kings, helping them to three straight CIF Southern Section division titles.


But college is a different animal, and in women’s water polo the three-time defending national champion Bruins are more like lions — they’re the kings of the jungle.

Since the first NCAA Tournament in 2001, the Bruins have won five of the seven national titles. UCLA has won nine national titles, including four from 1996-2000 before it was an NCAA-sanctioned championship.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Fullen said. “At UCLA, it’s just like a long line of doing really well.”

After two years of sitting on the bench for the Bruins, she was cast into a starting role in the cage this season — and UCLA (30-0) hasn’t skipped a beat. The team ended the regular season top-ranked in the country, it won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title and it’s the top seed for this weekend’s eight-team NCAA Tournament at Stanford.

UCLA plays No. 8-seeded Pomona-Pitzer (17-11) today at 5 p.m. In the goal won’t be Emily Feher, the four-time All-American who graduated after helping UCLA win the three straight national titles. It will be Fullen.

“Brittany is following in the footsteps of possibly the greatest goalie ever to play college water polo,” UCLA Coach Adam Krikorian said. “Emily was a great leader, and Brittany has filled those shoes tremendously well.”

Fullen started eight games in her first two years combined. This year, the second-team All-MPSF selection has started every game and made 219 saves. It’s a mark just six off the UCLA single-season record of 225, set by Nicolle Payne in 1998.

Fullen’s career-high is 15 saves in the final of the UC Irvine Invitational on Feb. 24, an 8-7 victory over Stanford that helped her earn MPSF Player of the Week honors.

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