Abbotsford’s Alexa Tielmann helped lead the UCLA Bruins women’s water polo team to a third-place finish last year. She has one more year left at the school to guide the team to its first national title since 2009

Tielmann impressing in the California waters

Former Abbotsford Whaler continues strong run in the pool with UCLA Bruins

Abbotsford’s Alexa Tielmann has transformed a coach’s suggestion into the bright lights of Los Angeles.

The water polo star has one final shot at NCAA glory with the UCLA Bruins this January, but still remembers her first foray into the sport with the Fraser Valley Water Polo Club.

“I did swimming with the Abby Whalers first,” she said. “And the water polo team is attached to the club. I’m not a small girl, and I wasn’t the fastest swimmer but could swim well so Ian Mitchell basically suggested I try water polo. I tried and loved it.”

At six feet tall, her size and strength helped her develop fast with FVWP. She starred for several years with the club, as well as with Yale Secondary. She helped the Lions finish second twice and third once in the B.C. high school water polo championships, earning team most valuable player honours in 2010 and 2012.

Tielmann also helped FVWP earn third place at the National Club Championships in 2010, 2011 and 2012, winning the club MVP award twice. She also played on Team BC and eventually attracted the attention of the Canadian national team, representing the country as a junior and senior.

To this day, she said her biggest athletic thrill was helping Canada beat the USA by one goal in the 2011 Youth Pan-Am Games.

In the years since, Tielmann accepted an offer from UCLA to join their high-ranking water polo team and pursue her sociology degree with a minor in education at the California institute.

She joined the Bruins in 2013, scoring 29 goals in 33 games to rank third on the team. Her second year on the team in 2014 saw her record 14 goals, while earning eight steals and 29 exclusions.

In 2015, Tielmann took the year off from UCLA and red-shirted while training with the Canadian women’s national team. She helped the club earn silver at the 2015 World University Games, but ultimately decided to return to her university club after one year wearing the red and white.

“Overall I really matured as a person and a player in 2015,” she said of the year she spent training with the club based in Montreal. “My game really improved training with Canada. I’ve always struggled with defence but working with Canada that aspect of my game really improved dramatically. My quickness also really improved.”

She said the plan originally was to spend two years with Canada, but decided to complete school and cut sort the deal by one year.

“I felt it was more smart to back to school and finish that,” she said. “I may go back to Team Canada after graduation.”

She said she returned to university competition with more confidence and it showed on the scoreboard. She scored a career-high 35 goals, while also establishing career records in assists and steals. Tielmann also helped the Bruins place third in the country, posting a record of 26 wins and five losses in the regular season.

“My playmaking really developed this year,” she said. “I was able to read the play and the pool more and if defenders drop back on me I was able to pass the ball and give my teammates the opportunity to score.”

The centre/forward’s season was highlighted by a four-goal performance against Arizona State, which helped her earn player of the week honours. She was also named a conference all-academic.

Tielmann returns for one last ride with the Bruins starting in January, as they try to seek their first national championship since 2009.

For more on the team, visit uclabruins.com.

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