It took more than 1,260 minutes, but someone finally figured it out.
After boasting a zero in the loss column for the first 14 games of the year, No. 2 UCLA women’s soccer is undefeated no more. The Bruins’ unblemished record now has one mark of mediocrity against it.
Despite holding Washington State (8-5-2, 3-4 Pac-12) to just one goal, UCLA (12-1-2, 5-1-1) couldn’t find the net, suffering a 1-0 defeat and its first shutout of the season. The last time the Bruins were shut out was nearly one year ago, when Utah ceased them from scoring on the road.
Nearly every opponent resorts to the same game plan against UCLA, congesting their third of the field and bumping any Bruin with the ball. And while other teams eventually left open a window of opportunity for the several offensive stars on UCLA’s formidable team, Washington State did not.
For once, the Bruins were not the first ones on the board.
In the fourth minute, the Cougars skied a corner kick into the box, where two of their players were surrounded by UCLA defenders. The ball slipped past all of them and landed just in front of junior midfielder Maegan O’Neill, who flicked the ball above Bruin goalie Teagan Micah and into goal.
With the early lead, the Cougars were able to park the bus and focus primarily on posting a stifling defensive performance. And for the next 86 minutes, they did.
UCLA found opportunities, but shots were either blocked or well off target. Redshirt senior midfielder Claire Winter had one chance in the final minute to keep the Bruins alive, but was foiled by Washington State goalkeeper Ella Dederick.
The Bruins did tally more corner kicks than the Cougars, as well as fewer fouls, meaning more free kicks. But the roaring engine that was the UCLA offense finally ran out of gas.
Though the Bruins cannot finish the Pac-12 season undefeated, they still have a chance to claim the conference title. And the beginning of the new mission begins Sunday against Washington (9-5-2, 2-3-2)
The Huskies are in the midst of a brutal stretch, as they faced off against No. 1 Stanford and No. 6 USC in their previous two bouts, losing both without notching a goal. They have recorded just one goal in their last five bouts.
Washington’s offense is not a well-oiled machine, but its defense is stout and sturdy, surrendering just nine goals all season. The club is battle-tested as well, facing off against four teams currently ranked in the nation’s top 25.
UCLA, which shouldn’t be complacent, will not escape Washington with an easy victory. As was seen against the Cougars, any team can strike against even the most talented teams in the country.
But the Bruins hope lightning won’t strike twice in Seattle on Sunday.
This is your UCLA women’s soccer vs. Washington game thread.