The UCLA Women’s Soccer team (6-2-1) heads to the desert this weekend for a pair of conference games against the Arizona schools. First up are the Arizona Wildcats (6-2), who welcome the Bruins to Murphey Field tonight at 7 p.m. PT.
UCLA will be missing several of its top players, who have been called up for national team duty. Senior midfielder Jessie Fleming will miss the weekend’s games due to her duties with the Canadian national team; and senior goalkeeper Teagan Micah and freshman midfielder Rebecca Lowe will also be absent, as they will be displaying their talents for the Australian national team. Players such as freshman midfielder Mia Fishel and junior forward Ashley Sanchez, who are immensely talented, will need to step it up for the Bruins tonight.
LAST TIME OUT
Last Friday night, the Bruins suffered their second loss of the season, dropping their conference opener at home to U.C. Berkeley, 2-1. The upset dropped the Bruins from #7 to #16 in the rankings, while elevating the previously unranked Golden Bears (9-1) to #20.
Berkeley stunned the Bruins early, when Luca Desa put one high and into the back of the net in the 6th minute, after the ball fell to her feet after a fortuitous bounce (for Berkeley, unlucky for UCLA) off a UCLA defender.
Junior midfielder Marley Canales brought UCLA level in just over five minutes, with a successful penalty kick in the 11th minute after Ashley Sanchez was fouled in the box. The teams were still tied at the half, with the Bruins out-shooting the Golden Bears, 7-2.
Although both teams pushed for the go-ahead goal in the second half and the Bruins had many more opportunities than Berkeley (ultimately out-shooting them 17-8), it was the Golden Bears who put away the Bruins in the 88th minute, after a speedy run by Abigail Kim down the right flank resulted in an inch perfect cross to Kailee Gifford, who potted the game-winning goal with her first touch.
The ‘Cats have enjoyed a fine start to the season, although they, like the Bruins, are coming off a 2-1 loss in their first conference game, a double overtime thriller at Colorado, where the Buffs buried a penalty kick in the second overtime to send Arizona to its second loss of the campaign.
The Wildcats also fell to Santa Clara on the road earlier this year by the score of 4-0. UCLA also lost to Santa Clara, 2-0, in the Bay Area.
Although UCLA is a ridiculous 22-1-1 all time versus Arizona, this might be the season in which the Wildcats hang another “W” on the Bruins. The ‘Cats return 19 players from a 2018 season that saw them advance to the round of 32 in the postseason.
Sophomore forward Brooke Wilson and junior forward Julie Aguilera have scored four and five goals on the season, respectively. Junior forward Jada Talley has notched five assists, to go with two goals. If UCLA can keep those three off the scoresheet, it should be able to pull out a victory.
Arizona did lose its starting ‘keeper from 2018, and has implemented a platoon between two freshman, Hope Hisey and Kendyll Humphreys. Both women have started four games but, so far, Humphreys has had the better form, allowing only one goal in 215 minutes, while Hisey has allowed eight goals in 421 minutes. As long as she is healthy, expect to see Humphreys between the posts tonight.
If UCLA had its full compliment of players, I would pick UCLA to win this game. Fleming will be missed. Micah is an excellent goalkeeper, but back-up Lauren Brzykcy has proven to be a capable back-up. UCLA has tons of talent but really has not looked convincing since losing to Santa Clara in early September, and the Bruins have a 2-2-1 record since that game.
So, I have my doubts about this game. Either UCLA wins big or drops a close one. I cannot decide which UCLA team we will see tonight, but I’ll go with my heart (and not my brain) and pick the Bruins, 3-0.