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UCLA Women’s Soccer Puts Undefeated Record on the Line against Virginia

A superb offense battles a suffocating defense in this top-10 bout.

Zoey Goralski Joe Piechowski

Another game, another win.

No. 1 UCLA women’s soccer (6-0) didn’t display the offensive flair it showcased in its first four matches of the year, but it managed to notch back-to-back shutouts during its trip to Utah, capping off the expedition with a 2-0 victory over Weber State (1-4).

The Wildcats crowded defenders into their own third, hoping to halt the Bruins’ torrid offense. While it worked for a majority of the game, as UCLA forwards resorted to long-range shots, they didn’t keep them off the board entirely.

Despite firing nine shots in the first half, the Bruins failed to sneak anything past opposing goalie Sydnie Brough. But after the break, UCLA took advantage of its first opportunity.

Senior defender Gabrielle Matulich, fending off a Cougar in reach, dribbled to the right lining a hook shot with her right foot into the top right corner of the goal. Brough extended her body, reaching up with her right hand, but whiffed as the ball flew past her.

Weber State’s focal point was defense, thus it wasn’t able to gain any steam in UCLA’s third. The Cougars mustered just one shot in each half, the fewest any opponent has amassed against the Bruins this year.

With the clean sheet, UCLA has managed to keep opponents off the board for 215 consecutive minutes. The biggest scoreless stretch last season was 292 minutes across games against USC, Seattle, Nebraska and West Virginia – the first three were shutouts.

Vs. Virginia

The memory might still haunt coach Amanda Cromwell to this day.

Fresh off a NCAA championship during her first season in Westwood, the skipper’s All-Star caliber club seemed prepared for a repeat in 2014. It was the No. 1 overall seed in that year’s NCAA tournament. It was arguably a better squad than that of 2013.

UCLA went 21-1-1 in the regular season, surrendering just five goals, and cruised through the first three rounds of the event before meeting Virginia in the Elite Eight. The winner would head to the College Cup.

The Cavaliers, sporting a powerhouse offensive corps, crushed the Bruins’ hopes of back-to-back championships, vanquishing the defending champions and their stifling defense 2-1.

After failing to earn revenge for that heartbreaking loss in 2015, UCLA has a chance to vanquish No. 8 Virginia (4-1) Thursday in the marquee matchup. The Bruins’ potent offense will encounter the Cavaliers’ smothering backfield brigade, which has allowed just two goals all season.

Virginia has faced two top-25 teams thus far, beating No. 3 West Virginia but losing to No. 16 Wisconsin. While the Cavaliers have faced off against top-tier offensive battalions, the Bruins boast possibly the best attack force in the nation.

UCLA is averaging 3.3 goals per game, ranking seventh in the nation and third in assists. Fleming leads the Bruins with five assists on the year, while junior forwards Hailie Mace and Julia Hernandez have scored five goals apiece to lead the club.

This year’s squad has more variability in terms of scoring, however. While the forwards have amassed the most goals on the squad, the midfield crew has tallied six goals and defenders have contributed three of their own.

The depth and efficiency of UCLA’s fast-paced, possession-based offense could give Virginia’s back line a fit. But the Cavaliers could also frustrate the Bruins’ attack and contain them, especially at home.

This is your UCLA women’s soccer vs. Virginia game thread.