The UCLA Bruins women’s soccer team suffered heartbreak on Wednesday, as they were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament following a penalty shootout loss to Clemson in the third round.
The Bruins had reasonable aspirations for the national championship this season, but after a gritty last-minute win over Iowa in the second round, they went down against the Tigers as well and needed a late equalizer to even get hope of winning. This time, they couldn’t complete the comeback to flip the game.
It was a pretty quiet first half, with UCLA having better looks over the first 45, but neither team really getting a great chance on goal.
Clemson got the go-ahead goal in the 57th minute, Sammy Meredith slotting in her shot to give the Tigers the edge and putting UCLA on the ropes again in the NCAA Tournament.
Reilyn Turner had a great shot moments later, her sharp effort forcing a save from Clemson’s goalkeeper.
Mia Fishel nearly scored with 18 minutes to play, as she and Delanie Sheehan powered through in the box, Sheehan’s bloop header seemingly setting up Fishel perfectly, but her effort sailed over the goal.
But the Bruins got the equalizer with just over three minutes to play, through Olivia Athens’ header in the box.
The teams went to overtime after the 1-1 tie through regulation, and UCLA were the stronger team in the 1st OT, but they couldn’t get their golden goal. The 2nd overtime period was far more muddled, although a trip in the box that could have given UCLA a penalty went uncalled, and the game went to penalties.
Remarkably, both teams were perfect in the opening five rounds, and they went to sudden death in the 6th round tied 5-5 in the shootout. In the 6th round, Madelyn Desiano’s attempt was saved by Clemson goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff, and Clemson won 6-5 to advance in the tournament.
THIS IS WHAT WE DO— Clemson Women's Soccer (@clemsonwsoccer) May 6, 2021
Elite Eight pic.twitter.com/C7p6Ybrm5q
It’s a tough blow for the Bruins, who were nearly perfect on the season and were the No. 3 overall seed in the tournament. But it wasn’t meant to be in the end.
UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell paid tribute to her team on social media after the loss.