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No. 2 UCLA Women’s Soccer Attempts to Rebound Against Utah after Draw

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The Utes defeated the Bruins in 2-0 in Utah last year.

@UCLAWSoccer

UCLA women’s soccer had a chance to put Arizona away.

Junior forward Hailie Mace stepped up in the 71st minute, the two teams tied at two, attempting to slot in the dagger to continue the Bruins’ undefeated stretch. She struck a line drive, but was denied by the Wildcats’ goalie Lainey Burdett to keep the tie intact.

Though that wasn’t the final opportunity for No. 2 UCLA (11-0-2, 4-0-1 Pac-12), Arizona (5-4-3, 2-2-1) ceased the Bruins from scoring to maintain the 2-2 tie.

Both sides were active in the early first half.

UCLA had two shots thwarted by Burdett in the first nine minutes. Arizona compiled a pair of shots, which both missed hight. Mace, who leads the team in goals, had difficulty getting near goal, pressed by the opponent’s defensive unit.

But the Wildcats couldn’t contain Mace for long.

In the 21st minute, Mace blitzed down the field, splitting defenders and creating space for a shot. After gliding into the opponent’s box, Mace curled a shot with her left foot into the right side of the goal, giving the Bruins a 1-0 leads.

Less than 10 minutes later, UCLA doubled up its lead after redshirt sophomore forward Anika Rodriguez netted a penalty kick. It was her fourth goal on the year.

While the offense has been crisp and potent for the much of the year, the defense has had its issues, especially in regards to clearing. That inconsistency continued against Arizona.

With less than 10 minutes left in the first half, Wildcat forwards rushed Bruin sophomore goalie Teagan Micah, who attempted to knock the ball out of UCLA territory. But the Australian botched the kick, as it ricocheted off Arizona’s Jill Aguilera straight to Hannah Clifford.

Clifford didn’t let the opportunity get away, tipping the ball in uncontested to bring the Wildcats within one.

The Bruins electric offense slowed down in the second half, yet still had some critical chances to put the game out of reach. But their stifling defense ceded several opportunities, ultimately allowing Arizona to claw its way back to a tie in the 65th minute.

The Wildcats’ forward Jada Talley scrambled into the Bruins’ box, then fed a through ball to midfielder Amanda Porter, who whipped a shot into the top-right corner of the goal. Micah nearly got a hand on the ball, but it was just inches below the shot.

Neither team could take advantage during the overtime periods. While both teams created several opportunities in the box, no player could finish.

UCLA’s performance led to a drop in the polls to No. 2 after being ranked first in the nation for more than a month.

Now the Bruins will attempt to return to the top against the Utah Utes (5-6-2, 0-4-1), who have had a rough season despite being one of the conference’s biggest surprises in 2016.

Utah’s biggest issue during its current four-game losing stretch has been its dismal offense. It’s been more than 500 minutes since the Utes tallied its last goal. They have yet to score in Pac-12 play.

Yet the club still boasts one of the most talented players in the conference in junior forward Hailey Skolmoski, who has collected seven goals this season. Despite owning a pithy shots-on-goal percentage, her versatility, speed and size make her a critical target against the Bruins.

UCLA lost in Utah last season 2-0 after struggling to find any offensive rhythm in the high altitude. It will try to enact revenge on its home soil this year.

This is your UCLA women’s soccer vs. Utah game thread.