Good morning. I hope that everyone had a safe and fun Halloween last night. Monday Halloweens can be tough on Tuesday morning!
Today’s Bruin Bites will finish a two-part article about UCLA’s Fall Olympic sports. Yesterday we looked at Men’s Water Polo and Women’s Volleyball, two sports that, through this point in the season, are having excellent campaigns. With the MLS playoffs underway and EPL in full swing, today is soccer-centric. BN will check out Women’s Soccer, one program that started out very hot but had a tough weekend last weekend, and Men’s Soccer, a program that consistently seems to underachieve. As was the case yesterday, we will summarize the season that each has had relative to expectations, examine what is still to come for those teams, and prognosticate regarding the postseason for each of these teams.
Season to Date:
The UCLA Women’s Soccer team (12-5-1; 6-3-1 PAC 12) was looking much better one week ago, before its trip to the "mountain schools." The #9 ranked Bruins are sure to fall in the most recent polls that will be released later today, after dropping their contest last week at #22 Colorado, 1-0, and following that up with a 2-0 loss to soon-to-be-ranked Utah. This two-game losing streak to two schools that are now ahead of UCLA in conference standings has the Bruins sitting in sixth place in the PAC 12, with one game remaining. The best that UCLA can finish is fourth.
The Bruins appear to be missing senior forward, Darian Jenkins, who led the team in goals before suffering a season-ending injury a few weeks ago. Getting blanked in the Rockies is proof positive of how much UCLA misses Jenkins.
If you would have asked me one week ago how the Bruins were performing relative to expectations, I would have opined that UCLA was exceeding them. After losing to Colorado and Utah, it is tough to say. I give them an "incomplete" with one game left in the regular season.
It is Beat $C Week! The Bruins have one remaining game on their regular season schedule, against #4 Southern Cal this Friday, November 4th, at 7 p.m. PT at the StubHub Center. The game will be televised on the PAC 12 Networks.
I’m sure the Morgan Center will have student ticket packages with buses to the game to ensure awesome attendance from UCLA students. Um, wait a sec . . . let me revise. With Dan Guerrero in charge, I am betting that there will be nothing like this offered to students.
With an RPI of 16 (after factoring in the two game losing streak), the Bruins are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament field of 64 and are right on the edge of securing home date(s) for Round 1 and, assuming the Bruins win, Round 2. A good result against Southern Cal could cement home date(s) for the first round(s). Selection Sunday is this Sunday, November 7th.
Last season, the Bruins had a losing record and did not make the tournament so this is an improvement. With the talent that UCLA has, though, the Bruins should get through the first two rounds of the tournament, and perhaps make some noise in subsequent rounds.
Season to Date:
Before beating an overmatched Coastal Carolina team, 3-1, that was a looooooong way from home last Saturday, the UCLA Men's Soccer team (8-6-1; 3-4 PAC 12) had lost three straight, dropping out of the national rankings. The Bruins are 4th in the PAC 12 (out of six teams).
Although new rankings come out today, UCLA was not in the top 25 last week and does not figure to be in the top 25 in the new rankings. If you count "others receiving votes," UCLA is presently 37th in the nation, behind teams such as American, Albany, Rider, and Radford.
For a team picked to win the PAC 12, Head Coach Jorge Salcedo has this UCLA team grossly underperforming. Like last year's team, which went 11-9-1 with championship calibre talent and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, this year's squad should have a much, much better record. As has been the case often under Coach Salcedo, and to paraphrase Aristotle, the whole of this team is NOT greater than the sum of its parts.
The Bruins have three remaining games in the regular season schedule. First up is #16 Washington in Seattle this Thursday, November 3rd. Then, on Sunday, November 6th, UCLA heads south a bit to Corvallis to take on Oregon State. The following week, on Thursday, November 10th, UCLA closes out the regular season at home against #22 SDSU. All games are televised on the PAC 12 Networks
UCLA has an RPI of 24. With a tournament field of 48, it would seem that UCLA should make the field. The fact that we are talking about UCLA perhaps NOT making the field is an indictment itself of the failures of this season. Indeed, were UCLA to end the season with a losing record, it would not be selected.
So the Bruins need to get at least one positive result in their last three regular season games. I foresee a loss to UW (who absolutely dismantled the Bruins at Drake earlier this season, 4-0, with UCLA having a man advantage for the majority of the game) and a win at Oregon State. SDSU at home is a toss-up.
UCLA really needs to turn the ship around to have a "successful" season relative to expectations at this point, which would include finishing strong in the regular season, securing a tournament bid, and getting to at least the Round of 16. Many would consider merely making the Sweet 16 to be unacceptable, and those people would not be incorrect.
That is it for today’s Bruin Bites. I hope that you enjoyed this two-part piece about UCLA’s Fall Olympic sports. Given us your thoughts in the comment section below.