The #8th-ranked UCLA women’s soccer team (11-3-1, 6-2 Pac-12), winners of six straight games, head to high country this week for a pair of games against the mountain schools of the Pac-12. Tonight, the Bruins face Utah (8-7-1, 5-3 Pac-12) at 6 pm PT, before heading to Boulder, Colorado on Sunday to play the #20 Buffs.
Last Time Out
UCLA last played on Sunday night, in the Bruins’ regular season home finale against the cellar-dwellers of the Pac-12 Oregon State. The Bruins welcomed back Hailie Mace and Jessie Fleming into the fold, after the pair missed several games due to international duty in Women’s World Cup qualifying. Fleming also had some injury issues and, before facing the Beavers, she had only appeared in three games this season, none of which were in conference play.
With those players back and against an inferior opponent, UCLA absolutely dominated the Beavers by the score of 6-0. Mace had two goals, Fleming had an assist and Julia Hernandez also put two into the net.
Ashley Sanchez, who has really carried the team offensively since Anika Rodriguez went down with a knee injury, also had a brace as well as an assist. That and her one goal and one assist performance against Oregon earned Sanchez the UCLA Muscle Milk Student Athlete of the Week award.
Against the Beavers, the UCLA backline was rock solid, allowing only one shot, and that wasn’t even on frame. It was an easy night for UCLA goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy, who earned the clean sheet despite not being asked to make a single save.
After starting the season 3-6-1, Utah has won five of its last six games, with its only loss to top-ranked and undefeated Stanford on the road. Included in that streak was a 1-0 overtime win against then-#7 Washington State, as well as three other clean sheets. Most recently, Utah beat UC Berkeley, 2-1, at Berkeley.
The Utes have not lost at home in Pac-12 play, going 3-0 against Washington, Washington State, and Oregon State, all of which were clean sheets.
Utah has some very talented attacking players, led by senior midfielder Paola Van Der Veen and junior forward Ireland Dunn. Van Der Veen has scored seven goals on the season and Dunn has four to go with six assists. Also dangerous is senior forward Hailey Skolmoski, who has four tallies of her own.
Carly Nelson will start as goalkeeper for Utah, as she has in every game this season. In fact, Nelson has played all but four minutes and 29 seconds of Utah’s campaign so far. She has allowed 0.96 goals per game, has made 65 saves, and has six clean sheets.
UCLA cannot afford to overlook Utah before facing an even tougher opponent in Colorado on Sunday. After a cool start to the season, the Utes are hot and Utah fans will be fired up for this game, which has been designated as a “blackout” game for the Utes. A Utah win against the Bruins would greatly help the Utes’ case for postseason play.
None of that should be enough for Utah. With all of its weapons back in the fold except for Anika Rodriguez, who is still out with a knee injury, I predict that UCLA prevails in this game, and I think they do it by the score of 4-1.
This is your UCLA Women’s soccer versus Utah Utes open thread.