Hailie Mace started it in the 16th minute. Then she ultimately ended it 45 minutes later.
The junior forward outscored Princeton (16-3-1) alone, notching two key goals and propelling UCLA (19-2-2) into the College Cup for the third time in the past five years.
Mace’s first one came as a result of some nifty passing and teamwork. Senior defender MacKenzie Cerda and freshman forward Ashley Sanchez pushed the ball forward and set up Mace. The former defender, who hadn’t scored since Oct. 22, positioned herself perfectly for a header that she pushed into goal.
That wasn’t the lone goal in the first 20 minutes.
The Tigers’ typically-stolid defense had allowed holes early on. And the Bruins took advantage of the defensive letdown.
Just a few minutes after the opening goal, redshirt senior defender Zoey Goralski glided down the right side of the field. When she reached the opponent’s box, she snuck a through ball to redshirt sophomore forward Anika Rodriguez.
Then, just as Rodriguez was about to head out of bounds, she flicked a pass toward the middle of the box, hoping a teammate trailed behind her.
Freshman midfielder Olivia Athens did.
Athens slid forward, getting enough of the ball to slowly roll into the goal, giving UCLA a 2-0 lead.
While the Tigers’ defense didn’t fare as well as usual in the first half, the Bruins’ remained sturdy, allowing Princeton to get off a measly one shot in the opening 45 minutes.
But the tides turned quickly in the beginning of the second half. The Tigers clawed their way back with a goal by Abby Givens, their leading goal-scorer.
Then UCLA notched the dagger.
Mace raced into the Tigers’ third past several defenders. The opposing goalie rushed out of the box in an attempt to wrestle the ball away from Mace, but she shimmied to the right and then flicked a curving shot into an empty goal.
Both teams had opportunities toward the end, and Princeton became desperate, pressing its team forward. But the Bruins’ defense stayed put, thwarting every chance the Tigers had.
And as a result of it, UCLA will head to Orlando, where it will meet Duke, which crushed Baylor 4-0 in its Elite Eight matchup.