The UCLA Bruin women’s soccer team (2-0-0) has opened the season with a pair of comfortable wins against teams they should beat. Iowa State is a bad team and “The Beach,” despite having a solid record last season and likely to challenge for the postseason this year, is a team that a program of UCLA’s caliber should almost always beat.
The Bruins won the season opener 3-0 and Sunday’s game 1-0. The Long Beach State game, in particular, could have been 5-0. The Bruins had so many chances right in front of the net, only to sky it over the bar, take a heavy touch, or take a split second too long to allow a block or other dispossession. The Bruins had 21 shots on goal, eight on target, yet they only scored one.
Those chances will need to be tallies versus Florida State tonight. Against the #1 team in the country, a Florida State squad which will be full of confidence on a huge MLS stage, UCLA will need to be clinical in front of the goal to have a chance to beat the Seminoles. FSU will also truly test the UCLA back line for the first time this season, as both Iowa State and Long Beach State had limited chances on goal and UCLA was rarely—if ever—under sustained pressure on defense in those games.
UCLA will look for revenge in its worst defeat of the season last year, 4-1 in Tallahassee. The injured and out-manned Bruins (neither Jessie Fleming nor Hallie Mace played) simply ran out of gas in the early September southeast heat at the tail end of a two-week East Coast road trip.
The last time UCLA beat Florida State was in 2013—for the National Championship, UCLA’s first and only natty in women’s soccer.
Last Time Out
The Bruins beat Long Beach State 1-0 at George Allen Field on Sunday evening. As previously mentioned, UCLA blew a lot of chances. Still, freshman Mia Fisher scored her second goal in a UCLA shirt and it looks like she will be a vital part of this UCLA team going forward.
Ashley Sanchez assisted on the sole Bruin goal and was named UCLA/Muscle-Milk Student-Athlete of the Week. Sanchez also scored the game-winner versus Iowa State and had an assist, to go along with the assist she recorded against the 49ers.
UCLA’s goalkeeper Teagan Micah was only tested once, recording the solo save on the night and preserving the clean sheet. Micah was named Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week for her effort in the Iowa State and Long Beach State games. The 49ers’ keeper made seven saves on the night, some of which were routine and some of which were very good.
Although Long Beach State made the postseason last year and is a solid pre-conference opponent for the Bruins, they are nowhere nearly talented as Florida State.
The Seminoles come into the game with clean sheet wins over TCU, 2-0, and Wisconsin, 1-0 in overtime (golden goal rule in effect). Their best player from 2018 Venezuelan international Deyna Castellanos, who is now a senior, returns and currently leads the ‘Noles in scoring. She is the engine that UCLA must try to shut down.
Redshirt junior Malia Berkely, sophomore Jaelin Howell, and sophomore Yujie Zhao are all dangerous as well and all three have been named to the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list. The MAC Hermann Trophy is the most prestigious award in college soccer and has both men’s and women’s recipients.
Caroline Jeffers has started both games in goal for FSU so far this season, recording five saves and allowing no goals. Jeffers split time in net last year, playing in nine games and starting most games down the championship stretch.
That stretch included the championship game, in which Jeffers recorded a clean sheet and made two saves against the North Carolina team that knocked the Bruins out of the tournament. Jeffers hasn’t given up a goal in five straight matches so, as I mentioned earlier, UCLA will need to be very clinical in the face of goal to beat her. It will be a huge challenge.
This one should really be fun to watch and could match the quality of certain international women’s matches. After all, many of the players who will take the stage tonight at Banc of California Stadium also play for their home countries, most at the U-20 or U-23 age levels or U-17 in the past.
I am not going to predict the winner. The game really is a coin toss. It will be a treat. That is for sure.