After almost four months of regular season and postseason soccer, the UCLA Women’s soccer team is one win away from bringing home UCLA’s 114th national title. The Bruins (19-2-3) will seek “the natty” when they face the Stanford Cardinal (23-1), which is also seeking its 114th national championship, today at 9 a.m. PT in Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
Stanford punched its ticket to the championship tilt by convincingly beating the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first semifinal game on Friday night by the score of 2-0. And it wasn’t even that close as Jordan DiBiasi notched a brace in the first half, and Stanford cruised to victory in the second half. Stanford controlled possession, out shot South Carolina 17-5, and Stanford keeper Alison Jahansouz was only required to make one save.
UCLA had a tougher road in its Friday night semifinal game against the Duke Blue Devils. Although the Bruins controlled possession for most of the game, limiting Duke’s opportunities primarily to counterattacks, UCLA not could find the back of the net. UCLA had chances, but they went begging as many times a Bruin tried to make the extra pass in traffic, rather than putting the ball on frame.
But Duke couldn’t register a goal either and after 90 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of “golden goal” overtime, the game was decided by a penalty kick shootout. It went down like this:
Duke scored; so did UCLA’s Zoey Goralski. 1-0 Bruins.
Duke rung one off the crossbar; UCLA’s Julia Hernandez scored. 2-1 Bruins.
Duke scored; UCLA’s attempt by MacKenzie Cerda was denied by Duke’s keeper, E. J. Proctor. 2-2 tie.
Duke scored off the fingertips of UCLA’s keeper, Teagan Micah; UCLA’s Sunny Dunphy equalized. 3-3 tie, heading into the final round.
Rather than me describe it, just watch the final round, courtesy of @PAC12Network:
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how Marley Canales didn’t try to blast the ball, sacrificing accuracy for power, and instead calmly placed it where no keeper could get it into the upper right corner. Textbook.
So now the Bruins and the Cardinal will play for the second time this season, this time for all the marbles. The two squads faced each other on October 26th at Drake Stadium, with Stanford prevailing 1-0, on the strength of a goal by Jordan DiBiasi in the 28th minute.
But that game was not without drama, as UCLA had a legitimate gripe on a “no goal” call shortly before DiBiasi scored. UCLA striker Hailie Mace caught Stanford’s keeper off her line and chipped the ball over her head, off the bottom of the cross bar, and straight down. Replays appeared to show that the ball landed an inch or so inside the the goal line before spinning out of the goal mouth.
Check out the Pac-12 Network’s recap of the game, with the “no goal” footage at about the 15 second mark:
That was a really, really tough break for the Bruins on a very, very close call. Personally, I thought I saw green between the line and the ball.
Had the Bruins been awarded the goal and gone up 1-0, would that have changed the ultimate outcome? That’s hard to say, but it probably would have changed UCLA’s strategy going forward, and perhaps changed the ultimate result of the game.
No matter. UCLA can avenge that loss today, set the record straight, and get some payback with the ultimate prize on the line.
This is your “Battle For 114” NCAA Women’s Soccer National Championship Final, UCLA Bruins versus Stanford Cardinal game thread.
Go Bruins! Beat the Trees! Bring home NC 114!