The #7 UCLA Women’s Soccer team (2-1-1) returns home tonight to take on the Pepperdine Waves (1-4-0). Kickoff is at 7 pm PT and the game will be televised on Pac-12 Los Angeles and streamed via the Pac-12 Networks.
This will only be UCLA’s second home game of the season. The last one was the soccer version of a Hail Mary pass, as the Bruins prevailed over Long Beach State on a goal with two seconds left in regulation to break a scoreless tie.
The game-winner came courtesy of senior forward, Hailie Mace. On a desperation long ball from the left side of UCLA’s final third, which was flicked on brilliantly by UCLA senior midfielder Anika Rodriguez, Mace shut down a clearance attempt by the defender, simply outworked her to gain possession of the ball about ten yards from the left post, and poked the ball past LBSU’s keeper with her right foot.
Check out the game winning play:
What a way for the Bruins to christen UCLA’s new soccer specific facility, Wallis Annenberg Stadium!
The Long Beach State game was on August 17th, twenty-one days ago. Since then, UCLA has been on a two week tour of the East Coast, beating then #3 Penn State, 2-1; tying then #23 Florida, 0-0, and running out of gas against Florida State, falling by the score of 4-1. The ‘Noles are now 5-0-1 and ranked #3 in the nation, but the final scoreline was nevertheless a bit rough for the Bruins.
Notably, UCLA did not have the services of the aforementioned Mace for all three road games and the Bruins’ engine in the midfield, Jessie Fleming, missed the Florida and FSU games, as both players were called into international duty.
Mace got 16 minutes in the USWNT’s first win over Chile, 3-0, and did not play in the second game. Fleming sat out Canada’s 1-0 win over Brazil, although that might have been because she took a knock in the UCLA v. Penn State game, leaving the field for good in the first half.
With the 1-1-1 road trip, UCLA went from being the #2 team in the nation to #7. Frankly, I’m not sure that the Bruins deserved to drop five spots on a three-game, East Coast road trip against ranked opponents, especially with the tie and loss coming with, arguably, UCLA’s two best offensive players away from the team due to international call-ups. Maybe the drop can be explained by Florida having since dropped out of the rankings and the wheels really coming off for the Bruins at the end of the Florida State game.
But rankings don’t mean anything right now and I really don’t care about the record on the trip. It was the experience that I think will help this team. They faced a tournament-like schedule in venues reasonably close to where the College Cup will be held this year, in Cary, North Carolina.
Now, UCLA comes home to Westwood for only its second game at Wallis Annenberg Stadium and, against a better opponent, the Bruins might have a bit of a hangover from the long trip. But they come home to play the reeling Pepperdine Waves, who have one win and four losses in five games this season.
Against competition similar to UCLA, the Pepperdine was gobsmacked at home by Southern Cal, 5-0. The Waves’ only win came against Brown in Malibu, 1-0.
Pepperdine has only scored two goals this season on 50 shots (20 of them on goal). Sophomore forward Brie Welch had a hand in both of the Waves’ goals, finding the back of the net in the 2-1 loss against Indiana, and assisting on a goal by sophomore Joelle Anderson, who can play forward or attacking mid, on the game winner of the 1-0 victory over Brown. Welch and Anderson also lead the team in shots, with eight apiece.
Mace and Fleming have returned from international duty. Mace should see a lot of the field tonight and, hopefully, Fleming has recovered from her knock. It will be interesting to see what UCLA does with Fleming, as CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying is next month and I am sure that Canada would like to see her back and healthy for those games.
Even if Fleming doesn’t play, UCLA should score several goals tonight.
If UCLA’s back line can keep the Waves’ Welch and Anderson in check, I think that the Bruins win big. I am predicting a UCLA victory. Let’s say...4-1, UCLA.
This is your UCLA Bruin Women’s Soccer versus Pepperdine open thread. Let us know your thoughts on the game in the comment section.