It wasn’t the offensive explosion everyone expected, but it didn’t disappoint.
The bout between No. 6 UCLA and No. 1 Stanford had the NCAA championship hype and both teams demonstrated why they are considered to be the best of the best. But overall, a flurry of spectacular play wasn’t the difference.
A controversial call was.
In the 26th minute, junior forward Hailie Mace broke away from the Cardinal defenders, forcing a one-on-one matchup with their goalie, who was out of position. Mace seemed to outsmart her, floating a shot over her head that hit the crossbar and bounced into goal.
But the refs disagreed.
Pac-12 commentators, UCLA coach Amanda Cromwell and nearly 3,000 spectators in Drake Stadium all agreed it crossed the line – it clearly did in the replay. Yet the score remained tied at nil following the play.
The Cardinal (16-1, 9-0 Pac-12) then took advantage on a counterattack and notched the eventual game winning goal in the 1-0 victory over UCLA (13-2-2, 6-2-1). Stanford hasn’t allowed a goal since Sept. 21.
A corner kick gave the Cardinal their main opportunity. In the scrum, junior defender Alanna Cook headed the ball near the left post of the goal, where junior midfielder Jordan Dibiasi flicked it in for the goal.
The goal highlighted UCLA’s struggles against set pieces this season. The Bruins yielded goals from set pieces in three of their past four bouts.
And the loss essentially takes UCLA out of the running for the Pac-12 title. But the Bruins still have an opportunity to improve their resume prior to the big dance.
A victory against a star-studded No. 16 California (13-3-1, 6-2-1) team would help.
The Golden Bears were on a torrid stretch for the majority of October. But USC put a stop to that, claiming a 1-0 win against them Friday.
UCLA tied Cal last season after a double overtime slugfest. The Bruins nearly landed a loss in that game before Courtney Proctor notched the game-tying goal in the 90th minute.
This year’s matchup could be just as close, as both teams boast players with a steady offensive presence, as well as a sturdy defensive back line.
The Golden Bears have two leaders on offense in forwards Miranda Nild and Abi Kim, who have each tallied six or more goals this season. No one else on the club has more than two goals.
UCLA contained the presence of Stanford’s offensive stars and still came away with just its second loss of the season. Cromwell and company hope that won’t be the case Sunday.
This is your UCLA women’s soccer vs. California game thread.