Friday’s matchup highlighted plenty of firsts for UCLA women’s soccer.
The Bruins scored less than three goals, notched their first shutout of the year and claimed victory by just one goal.
More than 5,000 fans watched as players struggled to push past their opponent’s defensive barricade and find the back of the net. Each team’s back line squandered several opportunities, but when attackers found daylight in the penalty box, the goalkeepers held their ground, compiling save after save.
A goal scored early in the first half proved to be the difference for No. 1 UCLA (5-0), which pulled out a 1-0 defeat over BYU (0-2-2). The Bruins have won three straight against the Cougars dating back to 2003.
While BYU doesn’t boast an overpowering offense similar to last year, it came out on the attack early on. Within the first 15 minutes of the bout, UCLA sophomore goalie Teagan Micah tallied two saves to keep the Cougars off the board.
The Bruins’ attacking squad was quiet during that span, but came alive in the 16th minute. After Cougars goalie Hannah Clark denied sophomore midfielder Jessie Fleming the opening score, she crafted another opportunity.
This time, UCLA wasn’t denied.
Fleming faked out a few defenders, sliding a through ball toward the box for junior forward Hailie Mace. Mace one-timed a curved shot with her left foot past a diving Clark into the top left of the cage. It was her fifth goal of the season.
The Cougars had a few chances before the end of the half, but couldn’t capitalize. Their best shot came early in the second half. Senior midfielder Bizzy Bowen flew down the middle of the Bruins’ third, tapped a short pass to forward Avery Walker, then received the ball before booting a laser heading toward the right side of the goal.
But Micah prevented it from reaching the back of the net, diving to her right and ricocheting the line drive past the right of the box.
Each time BYU knocked on the door, UCLA’s platoon of physical defenders thwarted its advance, while Micah racked up six saves. The Cougars garnered just three shots in the entire second half.
The Bruins’ matchup against Weber State (1-3) may not be deemed the main card during their three-game road trip, but it could be considered a trap game. While the Wildcats weren’t an NCAA tournament team last year, but could provide a difficult matchup due to the area’s altitude.
Weber State took on another Pac-12 club in Utah in an exhibition last month. The Utes trounced the Wildcats 3-0. Thus far, Weber State has managed to score just one goal. However, its defense has been stable in the backfield, yielding just four goals in four games.
But to defeat UCLA, who arguably have the best attacking crew in the nation, the Cougars will have to hold possession for the majority of the game and deny the Bruins any opportunities in the attacking third.
No team has done that so far.
This is your UCLA women’s soccer vs Weber State game thread.