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No. 1 UCLA Women’s Soccer Faces a Tough Test at BYU

The Bruins begin a three-game road trip against a team that qualified for the NCAA tournament last year.

So far this season, the #1 Bruins have had a lot to celebrate even though the season is just four games’ old.

Four games.

That’s all UCLA women’s soccer needed to make its way to the top of the national rankings.

Each game has been a preview of the Bruins’ potential. The offense has put up crooked numbers, while the defense has been sturdy. Players might not even be at their peak form just yet.

No. 1 UCLA (4-0) started its season with four victories for the first time since 2013, but it can’t relax, as the team travels to Provo, Utah on Friday to face another formidable opponent in BYU (0-1-2). The Cougars have been a dominant force throughout the past two decades, compiling more than 10 wins in each of the past 12 seasons.

BYU has yet to notch a win this year, but it’s still becoming accustomed to an entirely new squad. The Cougars lost nine players overall, including four of their top five goal-scorers and forwards Ashley Hatch and Michel Vasconcelos ranked first and second.

Though the offense has lacked firepower without its dynamic forward duo from last season, BYU’s defense has been its biggest weakness. The Cougars yielded just 11 goals in 22 matches last year. They’ve already allowed five through three bouts this year.

Senior forward Nadia Gomes, who finished second in assists in 2016, and senior goalkeeper Hannah Clark headline the young regiment. Gomes is the team’s main facilitator, even though she has yet to notch a point this year. Clark finished with six shutouts last year.

While UCLA has yet to record a shutout, the club hasn’t had any issues outscoring its opponents.

UCLA’s opponents have failed to contain its high-octane offense. The Bruins’ 17 goals through four bouts are the most since at least 1998 – the online records only go back so far.

With junior forwards Hailie Mace and Julia Hernandez up top, the Bruins have created endless opportunities in their opponents’ box – they are averaging 16.5 shots per game – and have tallied most of their goals inside it as well.

Forwards have recorded most of the highlight-reel goals, but players from every third of the field have each been facilitators, especially the freshmen. They have recorded nine of the team’s 21 assists so far, coming mostly from the midfield corps.

Seven different Bruins have notched goals thus far, exhibiting the team’s depth and versatility. Even defenders, such as senior MacKenzie Cerda and redshirt senior Claire Winter have contributed in the scoring department.

This is your UCLA women’s soccer vs. BYU open thread.