When: Friday, December 6, 4:30 PM PT
Where: WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, N.C
The #2 ranked UCLA (21-1-2) women's soccer team faces #1 ranked Virginia (24-1-0) in a College Cup semifinal match today. The Bruins advanced to the College Cup semifinal by beating #4 ranked North Carolina 1-0 on a Taylor Smith golden goal in the second period of extra time. Virginia slipped past Michigan 2-1 in their quarterfinal matchup.
After defeating the Tar Heels in the quarterfinals, the Bruins are riding a 19 match unbeaten streak, including previous tournament victories against San Diego State, Kentucky and Stanford. Virginia's only loss of the season came against #4 ranked Virginia Tech in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.
UCLA remains the nation's top rated defensive team after shutting out North Carolina. The Bruins have a goals against average of just 0.283, and have shut out over 70% of their opponents. The defense is led by first-team NSCAA All-Pacific Region and All-Pac-12 first team goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland. Defender Abby Dahlkemper (first-team NSCAA All-Pacific Region and first-team All-Pac-12 selection) leads the Bruins defensive line; this week, Dahlkemper was named a 2013 MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist, which is awarded to the nation's top women's soccer player. The Bruins have a handful of outstanding players in midfield, with Sarah Killion and Jenna Richmond earning NSCAA All-Pacific Region and All-Pac-12 first team selection. Midfielder Sam Mewis (All-Pac-12 second team) is one of the Bruins' best passers, and Gabbi Miranda and Lauren Kaskie (All-Pac-12 freshman team, U-20 national team) provide depth and energy. The Bruins' attack is led by All-Pac-12 first team selection Taylor Smith (8 goals). She is often isolated up front, relying on her speed to take on defenders and create chances on the counterattack. Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and NSCAA All-Pacific Region first-team selection Darian Jenkins (11 goals) is our other primary attacker. The Bruins average 2.04 goals per game.
Against North Carolina, the Bruins spent much of the first half sitting back and absorbing pressure, inviting the Tar Heels forward in order to strike back with quick counterattacks on long, searching balls played forward for Smith. In the second half, UCLA changed tactics by pressing higher up the pitch, forcing errors and trying to play shorter passes through a more compact defense for quick scoring opportunities. The Bruins did not demonstrate much of a possession passing game, relying instead on a direct style of play that features a lot of long, optimistic passes for the strikers to run onto. Whether that approach will work against a well-organized Virginia defense remains to be seen.
Virginia is the highest scoring team in Division 1, averaging an impressive 3.08 goals per game, over a goal per game more than the Bruins. Their defense is strong too, allowing an average of just 0.597 goals per game, which ranks 16th nationally. The Cavaliers are led in attack by three double-digit goal scorers: Makenzy Doniak (19 goals), Morgan Brian (16 goals), and Brittany Ratcliffe (12 goals). Morgan Brian is probably the most dangerous of the group; as an attacking midfielder, she is particularly good at creating chances for her teammates with surging runs and clever passes. The Bruins will need to close her down quickly whenever she gets on the ball.
The official preview is here. The game is being televised on ESPNU.