UCLA women’s soccer prides itself on its defense each year, sporting a physical, versatile backline and a midfield crew that can prevent opponents from busting into its own third.
The Bruins possess yet another talented defensive unit, but it’s been their offense that has powered them in their first three games. They scored 14 goals across their first six bouts last year. This year, it took just three to tally that total.
No. 7 UCLA (3-0) will attempt to win its fourth straight game to open the year for the first time since 2013 – the national championship year – against UC Santa Barbara (2-0) Sunday. The last regular season match between the Bruins and the Gauchos was in 2010, tying 1-1, but these teams also met in Camarillo back in April in the second game of a doubleheader for the Bruins, but UCLA came out ahead then and should come out ahead again tonight.
The biggest surprise so far this season has been the play of Hailie Mace. Through just three games, Mace has already scored 4 goals and added 2 assists giving her a team-leading 10 points.
Sophomore midfielder Jessie Fleming has generated the most attention for the team due to her presence on the Canadian national team. But, perhaps, that attention on Fleming has allowed Mace to fly under the radar so far.
At the same time, Mace might not be able to go without notice for much longer if she keeps playing the way she’s been playing.
Meanwhile, the Gauchos enter tonight’s match undefeated after winning their first two games last week as they blanked Idaho, 3-0, and topped SJSU, 1-0. They’ve been picked to finish 3rd in the Big West behind Long Beach State, who the Bruins beat 5-1 last weekend, and Cal State Fullerton.
Their top player is Amanda Ball who has scored 3 of the Gauchos’ four goals so far this year. That earned the senior forward the Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Ball wears #14 for UCSB.
When these teams met in April, it wasn’t a blowout, but the Bruins played Pepperdine immediately beforehand. I’m expecting tonight’s game to be dominated by Fleming, Mace and the Bruins.
This is your UCLA Women’s Soccer vs. UCSB open thread.