The UCLA women's soccer team saw their season come to a bitter end last season when they lost to USC in the College Cup. Despite having dominated the Trojans for years, USC broke through when it mattered en route to the national championship. This season the top seeded Bruins went undefeated in the regular season, including a win over USC while the Trojans were good enough to earn a #4 seed. Both teams won their first two NCAA tournament matches, which set up a Round of 16 match up between the two programs. USC was looking to prove last year was not a fluke and they were in fact a year in, year out challenger to UCLA, while the Bruins were out to prove that last year as an anomaly.
It was clear to all in attendance that this was no ordinary match. There were over 3,000 people in attendance and there was a buzz of anticipation in the air. Both schools had plenty of support in the stands and both teams had the support of their bands who took every opportunity to play their schools respective fight song. It was a cool evening at Drake Stadium and some of the players choose to wear long sleeves. The Bruins were adorned in their true blue, while USC wore gold.
The Bruins controlled the match early on as they played in the majority of it in the Trojans' third, but some fine saves kept the game scoreless until the 13th minute when the Bruins broke through. A dangerous corner kick by the Bruins forced the USC keeper to tip the ball over the bar, giving the Bruins a second corner. On the second corner, the ball was played to the top of the six yard box where it rattled around before being shot on goal. A USC defender cleared the ball off the line, but the clearance hit UCLA's Kristina Larsen and bounced across the line. The Bruins were ahead 1-0 only 13 minutes in and considering the Bruins had only allowed four goals all season, that lead seemed safe.
After the UCLA goal, the match evened out some as both teams had their share of possession, but neither team threatened to score. In the final 10 minutes of the half UCLA began to take control of possession, just as they had done in early on. The Bruins pressed the Trojans and came close to going ahead 2-0 a few times, but they were unable to capitalize on their chances. Despite their first half dominance, the Bruins only led by a single goal at half time, a scary proposition considering the talented players on the USC side who were capable of a moment of brilliance.
As the second half began, it became clear the Bruins would try to drop as many players behind the ball as possible and defend. Meanwhile, the Trojans were sending players forward and pressuring the UCLA defense. The game got chippy as both sides took some nasty tackles and the rivalry effect was in clear view. The Trojans created their best chance of the night in the 62nd minute when a free kick from 30 yards out bounced around the top of the six yard box and narrowly missed the feet of several Trojans, but the ball was eventually cleared. In the 66th minute, the Bruins almost extended their lead when Christina DiMartino's rocket of a shot beat the keeper, but couldn't beat the crossbar.
The rest of the match saw USC push players forward, while the Bruins were content to defend and look for opportunities on the counter attack. The Trojans were unable to penetrate the stingy UCLA defense and the crowd counted down the final 10 seconds of the match as UCLA avenged the previous season's loss to the Trojans with a 1-0 win. With the victory, the Bruins advanced to the quarterfinals against Duke on Saturday at 6:30 pm at Drake Stadium. The winner will advance to the College Cup in Cary, North Carolina.
For video of the match, check out this, courtesy of USCTrojans.com.