UCLA Women's Soccer
Opponent: #20 California (12-4-2, 5-3-0)
When: 3:30 PM PT, Thursday, October 29, 2015
Where: Edwards Stadium, Berkeley, CA
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: California Golden Bears StatBroadcast
The Bruins have an afternoon match against #20 California today. With just three games left in the regular season, UCLA desperately needs to extend its two-game winning streak today to keep alive the possibility of earning an NCAA Tournament berth.
It won't be easy for the Bruins to beat the Golden Bears in Berkeley. California is undefeated at Edwards Stadium this season, and the Golden Bears have won six of their last seven games. With a win, though, the Bruins could climb past Cal in the conference standings, and might possibly have a chance of catching the Trojans for second place in the Pac-12.
On the other hand, a loss today would likely put an end to any realistic hope for a postseason appearance for UCLA. With #4 Stanford and #21 USC left to play, and the Bruins needing at least two more wins to be considered for the NCAA tournament, a loss today would be a crushing blow.
California is led up front by junior Arielle Ship, who probably deserves to be the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Ship leads the conference in goals with 11--the next nearest player has 6--and she is second in assists. California also has one of the Pac-12's best goalkeepers in Emily Boyd. Boyd leads the conference in goals against average (0.54), and is second in save percentage (.846).
In spite of Ship's goal-scoring prowess, the Golden Bears are not a high scoring team. They average 1.44 goals per game--exactly the same as the Bruins. The main difference between the two teams is defense: California is second in the Pac-12 in goals against average (0.59 goals/game) while UCLA is tenth (1.28 goals/game).
Fortunately, senior Taylor Smith is back for the Bruins, and she needs to be an impact player today if the Bruins are going to earn a victory. Smith's speed on the counterattack allows the UCLA midfield to adapt a slightly more defensive posture, a tactic that the Bruins will need to employ in their final games to protect their vulnerable back line.
Nothing about the Bruins' season has been easy. Today's game will be no exception. But if the Bruins want to play beyond next week, they have to get the job done today.