UCLA women’s soccer couldn’t re-create the offensive performance it had in last year’s season-opener against San Diego State – at least, not in the first half.
The Bruins tallied a flurry of shots in the game’s first 35 minutes, but couldn’t sneak any of them past Aztec goalie Gabby English. Missed opportunities may have sparked some doubt about the team’s finishing abilities.
Junior forward Hailie Mace put those doubts to rest.
Freshman midfielder Delanie Sheehan dribbled the ball into the right corner of the box, then curled a cross just in front of San Diego State’s goal. Mace rocketed a volley up the middle, notching the team’s first goal of the year.
Fireworks began on offense in the second half, as the Bruins (1-0) pulled away in a 5-1 victory against the Aztecs (0-1). Four different UCLA players found the back of the net, although eight had shots on goal in the contest.
Sophomore midfielder – and team captain – Jessie Fleming ensured the Bruins wouldn’t face a dry spell early in the second half, launching a volley that ricocheted off the top right of the crossbar into goal in the 51st minute. Junior forward Julia Hernandez recorded back-to-back goals in the 63rd and 72nd minutes – one on a header in the box, one on a penalty.
Senior midfielder/defender Claire Winter capped off the team’s scoring barrage in the 86th minute after booting a ground shot off a rebound in the Aztecs’ box.
While UCLA yielded a goal off a penalty kick, it looked stringent defensively, allowing just five overall shots and one corner kick. Sophomore goalkeeper Teagan Micah had two saves on the night for the Bruins.
Here are the game highlights from Pac-12 Networks:
UCLA will look to start its season on a winning streak for the seventh time in the last eight years Sunday when it travels to Long Beach State (0-0-1). The Bruins defeated the 49ers in their lone bout last year 2-1.
Long Beach State wasn’t a powerhouse last year, accruing a 10-7-4 record, but remained formidable at home, where it went 9-3-2. UCLA went 6-3 in true road games last season, but lost the last time it traveled south to Long Beach in 2015.
The 49ers do boast a rigid back line, as they surrendered just 16 goals in all of 2016. Offensively, they lack a handful of weapons, but senior forward Ashley Gonzalez is their main target. She led the team with 10 goals last year, while also pitching in with three assists.
This is your UCLA Women’s Soccer vs. Long Beach State Open Thread.