It’s been over eight long months since UCLA fell, 3-2, to Stanford in the Finals of the Women’s College Cup last season. Bruin fans, knowing how much returning talent UCLA has within its ranks, have been counting the days until the UCLA women take the pitch again. Well, wait no more as the UCLA Bruins Women’s soccer team (0-0-0) kicks off its 2018 season tomorrow at home against Long Beach State (0-0-0) at 7 p.m. PT.
But this is not just any other season opener. After years of playing inside the track at Drake Stadium, UCLA will host the grand opening of Wallis Annenberg Stadium. That’s right, the UCLA women will play the first official game in UCLA’s brand new soccer specific stadium, which has been constructed between the Wooden Center and Sunset Boulevard on what used to the North Athletic Field.
Although a packed house at Wallis Annenberg Stadium holds about 2,500, significantly less than Drake Stadium (which had its drawbacks), the atmosphere should place fans right on top of the action, making for a more exciting and intimate setting. I can’t wait to see it and, luckily for those of us not able to make it to Westwood for the game, the PAC 12 Networks will have all the action on television and via live stream. JB Long and Tammy Blackburn will call the game.
If you are going to the game, make sure to arrive early as pregame festivities are set to commemorate the occasion, starting 5 p.m. PT, two hours before kickoff.
For an in-depth of preview of whom you should see on the pitch in powderkeg blue and gold tonight, check out BN’s 2018 UCLA Women’s Soccer Season Preview. The Bruins, ranked #2 in the nation, return a ton of attacking talent, but will need to rebuild the back line to some extent.
Although there is ample talent on this team, keep an eye on two UCLA midfielders, each of whom plays a drastically different role, and both of whom are exciting to watch: #21 Jessie Fleming, an offensive dynamo who can score and pass, and #13 Viviana Villacorta, a tough defensive midfielder.
So, what can the Bruins expect from LBSU?
Long Beach State went 9-6-3 last season, and did not make it to postseason play. The Beach returns nine starters from that squad, and many are picking them to contend for the Big West title this season.
Last week, in a preseason matchup that will make Anteaters&Bruins happy, UC Irvine downed LBSU in Irvine, 1-0. UCI is picked to finish first in the Big West, so that loss is not too bad of a (preseason) loss for the Beach.
Defense should be a strength of Long Beach State, as it returns four starters on the back line. LBSU recorded nine shutouts last season, and they will look to continue to be stingy allowing goals. Long Beach State’s defense should be an interesting match-up against UCLA’s firepower, and that will be the critical aspect of the game, IMO. Will the Bruins be able to finish in the final third?
It figures to be a great Friday evening and a fun way to open a great, new facility! I predict that the Bruins will prevail, by the score of 3-1.
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section. After all, this is the first UCLA sporting event of the fall of 2018.