The UCLA women’s soccer team (16-4-1) has continued its solid play in the NCAA postseason and, now, faces a team it has already beaten this season, the Wisconsin Badgers (16-3-2). The winner of today’s match will have a date with the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee next weekend, as FSU beat South Florida, 2-1, earlier today to advance to the round of eight.
In their first meeting, the Bruins topped the Badgers, 1-0, in Westwood on September 14th, care of a 51st minute goal by Kennedy Faulknor. The teams played a very even game, with UCLA barely out-shooting Wisconsin, 13-12 (6-5 on target). So, today’s game could be a tight one.
To get to this contest, the Bruins made it to the round of 16 by crushing Clemson Friday night, 5-0. Wisconsin advanced by edging Duke, 1-0. Both games were played in Wallis Annenberg Stadium in Westwood.
Last Time Out
The Clemson Tigers were absolutely played off the pitch by UCLA on Friday night. The Bruins looks about as good as they have all season, at least in the first half before head coach Amanda Cromwell began liberally substituting out her starters to keep them rested for today’s game, less than 48 hours later.
The Bruins won 5-0, but it was the play in the first half that dazzled. UCLA had nine shots to just one by the Tigers, in jumping out to a 4-0 lead. UCLA got on the board quickly with a Mia Fishel tally in the 5th minute and, then, got goals in the 31st minute from Lucy Parker, 37th minute from Ashley Sanchez, and 42nd minute from Kali Trevithick.
Twenty players saw the pitch for the Bruins with many substitutions coming after Trevithick’s goal and extending through the second half. Although Clemson played better against many of the Bruin reserves, it was Fishel who would register the only goal in the second half, giving her a brace for the game and 11 goals on the season.
UCLA has won seven straight games heading into this afternoon’s game versus Wisconsin.
After losing to UCLA in Westwood in mid-September, Wisconsin went on an 11-game unbeaten streak, winning ten games with a 2-2 tie to Iowa mixed in. The party ended for the Badgers in the Big 10 Tournament, as they fell to Purdue, 1-0, in the first round, which is the reason why they are a #3 seed and are not seeded higher.
The Badgers have a pair of 1-0 wins since the Purdue loss and, now, face a hot UCLA team.
Wisconsin does not score a lot of goals. The Badgers only have 29 on the season in 21 games and have only reached the three-goal plateau once. Wisconsin’s defense, however, is superb. The Badgers have only conceded ten goals this season and never more than two in a game. All three of their losses have been by the score of 1-0.
Senior forward Dani Rhodes leads the Badgers in scoring, putting the ball in the back of the net 14 times, accounting for almost half of Wisconsin’s scoring. She also has four assists and leads the team in shots—by a lot with 71. Rhodes had five shots versus UCLA in September, but only two were on target and both were saved by UCLA goalkeeper Teagan Micah. UCLA will need to keep Rhodes in check if they want to travel to the Florida panhandle next weekend.
Junior goalkeeper Jordyn Bloomer has played every minute of every game for Wisconsin this season. She has twelve clean sheets and was named Big 10 Goalkeeper of the Year. Bloomer will be in goal for the Badgers and she will give Wisconsin a chance against UCLA (or any team, for that matter).
It should be noted that UCLA last played the Badgers during a tough stretch of their season. The Bruins went 2-3-1 in a six-game stretch that included the win over Wisconsin. UCLA is playing much better soccer right now.
I also think UCLA’s best players will be fresher this afternoon with most having earned a rest after Friday night’s first half. Wisconsin was only able to use three substitutes in their game on Friday, while the Bruins used nine.
With those two factors in mind, I predict a 2-0 victory for the Bruins.