The UCLA Women’s Soccer (14-3-1) team starts postseason play tonight versus San Jose State (9-6-6) in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Kickoff is at 6 pm PT at Wallis Annenberg Stadium
The Bruins have earned a postseason #2 seed in the quadrant with #1 North Carolina, meaning that if UCLA wins tonight and keeps winning, it will play three games at Wallis Annenberg Stadium, and then head to Chapel Hill (unless, of course, UNC loses in one of its first three games), in which case UCLA would host the regional final with a College Cup berth on the line. Here is the 2018 Division 1 NCAA Women’s Soccer Official Bracket, if you want to see a little more of how UCLA fits into the big picture.
But first, the Bruins need to get past San Jose State.
UCLA is looking for its tenth straight win, but will face another hot team in San Jose State. The Spartans won three straight games to win the Mountain West Tournament and gain an automatic bid to the postseason, and also tied their previous three games, all 0-0 draws, before that. So, SJSU is on a six game undefeated streak.
Last Time Out
In their final regular season game last Friday night at Stub Hub Center, the Bruins overcame a late deficit and beat the Southern Cal Trojans in overtime, 3-2.
After the teams traded goals, Southern Cal took a 2-1 lead in the 87th minute and things were looking bleak for the Bruins. But six second after the ensuing kickoff, Hailie Mace found the back of the net with a golazo from about 30 yards from goal.
Check it out at 0:55 of the clip below (or just check out the entire clip courtesy of the Pac-12 Network):
Mace’s goal forced overtime but neither team scored in the first ten minutes. In the second half of overtime, Jessie Fleming chipped a cross into the box and Olivia Athens nodded it past Southern Cal’s goalkeeper, ending the game with the golden goal in the 105th minute and sending UCLA into a frenzied celebration.
The win was big, as UCLA earned #2 number seed in the postseason, while Southern Cal (with only losses to Stanford and UCLA) was only given a #4 seed. If UCLA lost, that #4 seed could have been UCLA’s.
San Jose State
I’ll be honest.
San Jose State has not played much of a schedule. Perhaps its toughest game was its first game of the season against Santa Clara, who turned out to be a solid #3 seed in the postseason, and the Spartans lost that one, 2-1, at home.
The Bruins’ and Spartans’ only common opponent was San Diego State. UCLA beat the Aztecs 3-0 in San Diego. SJSU lost to the Aztecs 1-0 in San Jose.
Further, the Spartans have only won two games on the road, although they have tied four. And in the postseason, unlike the regular season, a tie results in penalty kicks if there is no score in either of the two ten minute overtime halves. So, UCLA will need to score because San Jose State’s best strategy might be to “park the bus” and hope to get to penalty kicks.
This strategy is further bolstered by the fact that San Jose State does not have much offense, scoring only 16 goals in 21 games (UCLA has 44 in 18 games). Jamilecxth Becerra has scored five of those 16 goals, and is the Spartans’ leading scorer.
San Jose State, however, has been very stingy on defense, allowing only 12 goals in those 21 games (UCLA has allowed 16). Yes, there is a big difference between the teams UCLA and SJSU played to get those numbers, but the goals against numbers are still darn good for the Spartans.
Paige Simoneau started in goal and played in all but one of San Jose State’s games this season. Her goals against average is a stellar 0.61., she has 63 saves, and eleven clean sheets. Expect her between the posts for the Spartans tonight.
San Jose State has had trouble finding the back of the net this season. I don’t believe they will be able to score against an organized Bruins squad.
Scoring is not a problem that UCLA has. Even with the normally stingy SJSU defense, I think the Bruins win in a romp, by the score of 3-0.
This is your UCLA Women’s Soccer versus San Jose State open thread. Fire away with your thoughts in the comment section.