On this Thanksgiving, thank you to the UCLA Women’s Soccer team and congratulations on your very good run this 2016 season. That being said, it took me a couple of days to put myself together and think clearly enough to write this, so here goes.
Unfortunately, the season has come to an end for the UCLA Bruins. It has not been an easy one, frustrating to watch at times as a fan, but I cheered and supported the team every step of the way. Thus is the life of a sports fan; getting frustrated with their team but at the end of the day you will always support them.
I started following the UCLA Bruins this summer. I will admit it; I became interested during the summer Olympics due to Canadian international Jesse Fleming. I heard the youngster was going to be attending UCLA in the fall so naturally, I looked them up. I wanted to know more about the team, apart from being crowned the 2013 NCAA Champions. After a bit of research, I decided to tune into their upcoming matches. All it took was one match and I became a fan.
To me, what reeled me in was how they focused on the positives rather than the negatives when faced with challenges. Their biggest challenge came early on when Darian Jenkins suffered a season-ending injury. She was part of the attack, alongside Fleming, and the duo worked well together to make for a powerful dynamic. After Jenkins’ injury, the UCLA offense did not look the same. They struggled to find the right combination to have the same attack they had before. Their lack of threat resulted in four straight overtime games. Then they lost back-to-back games in the Rocky Mountains where they were shutout for the first time all season.
Somehow in the middle of all of this, UCLA was able to find 13 different goal scorers in Jessie Fleming, Darian Jenkins, Amber Munerlyn, Anika Rodriguez, Gabbi Miranda, Annie Alvarado, Courtney Proctor, Gabrielle Matulich, Julia Hernandez, Claire Winter, Chloe Castaneda, Sunny Dunphy, and Zoey Goralski. It’s incredible just how much the individual players came together as a team after Jenkin’s injury. It’s a real testament to the true meaning of a team.
After the last couple of devastating weeks, UCLA turned a new page. After multiple changes, they found a lineup and formation that seemed to work for them. They defeated rivals USC and did not concede a single goal until West Virginia. As head coach Amanda Cromwell was quoted by the Daily Bruin, “We were defending well, we were attacking well, and we were very dangerous.” Amid the mid-season slump, they stayed positive and it worked out well for them.
Their hopes of bringing home a second title ended against West Virginia on penalties. Despite the loss, the players looked at the positives. They looked at how they came together as one, as a team. In the same Daily Bruin article Coach Cromwell’s quote was in, senior Annie Alvarado said it best, “This was my favorite season as a Bruin…. it was a feeling that we were one. It was an awesome feeling and it’s sad to let that go.” Ending the season with a loss is hard, but they have so much to look forward to. Hopefully, they take the comradery they had this season and take it to 2017.
Watching as a fan was a little bit like riding a roller coaster. There were some ups and there were some downs. If that’s how it felt for me, I can’t imagine for the players. But don’t be sad UCLA, throughout it all you have gained a fan for life in me.
Once again, thank you to the UCLA Women’s Soccer team for a very good 2016 season. I cannot wait for 2017. 2017 will be your year!