Saving the best for last-
First, in the category of sadly irrelevant-
The Men's and Women's Cross Country teams wrapped up their seasons at the NCAA championships on Saturday. The Men's team finished 18th, led by junior Sergey Sushchikh from Santa Barbara. This comes after a 5th place finish (out of nine) in the conference meet on Halloween. The Women's team finished 27th, led by senior Kelsey Smith from South Lake Tahoe. This comes after a 5th place finish (out of 12th) in the conference meet. Here is a recap from the official site.
Since Doughnut took over as AD in April, 2002, there have been 26 cross country teams competing for the Bruins (13 Men's, 13 Women's). And the best finish for the Men was 7th in 2003. The best finish for the Women was 24th in 2006.
Here are the schools which have won NCAA titles since Doughnut took over- Stanford, Colorado, Wisconsin, Oregon, Oklahoma State, BYU, Washington, Villanova, Georgetown, Providence, Michigan State. What does Georgetown have that UCLA doesn't? I really don't know the answer to that one. Forest Braden has been the head coach of cross country for six years, and we don't have anything to show for his tenure. Time for a change? Not if you ask Doughnut.
Second, in the category of stubbing our toes, but still capable of a serious run for #112-
The Men's Water Polo team headed to the MPSF tournament as the #1 team in the country. After an easy win in the opening round over UCSB 14-8 on Friday, the Bruins lost their scoring touch big time in the semi-finals on Saturday vs. host Long Beach State. This was the same Long Beach State team that UCLA had defeated 16-8 at home in the last regular season match of 2014. But this time the Bruins only scored three goals, the fewest in over six years, and lost 5-3. That threw UCLA into the third place match against #3 Southern Cal, while #2 Stanford played #4 Long Beach State for the conference title and the automatic NCAA berth.
UCLA then annihilated Southern Cal (what a lost weekend for the Trogans- boo hoo). The score was 10-5, and with that win, the Bruins take the season series with three wins in four matches. The five goal margin was the largest for UCLA over $C since 1989. And the cumulative margin for the weekend in football and water polo was +23. Works for me. Junior Danny McClintick had a hat trick to lead the Bruin scoring. And sophomore Garrett Danner came up huge in goal with 15 saves. Here is the official recap.
In the process, the Bruins were able to wrap up the top seed in the NCAA tourney. As the top seed, we will avoid a play-in game, and move right into the national semi's on December 6 in San Diego. UCLA will play the winner of #4 seed UCSD vs. #5 seed Brown. Those teams play this Saturday. UCLA's first NCAA match will be at 1 pm on December 6. In the most recent rankings, UCSD was #6 and Brown was #11. It theoretically should be smooth sailing (as it were) for the Bruins in the next match, but UCSD will have home pool advantage. This proved to be extremely beneficial to Long Beach State. But the #1 seed certainly befits a team with a great season to date.
The Saturday result was disappointing, but the destruction of $C on Sunday was definitely salve for the wound. The Bruins head into the NCAA's in excellent shape.
Third, in the category of so far, so good-
The Men's Soccer team opened up play on Sunday night at home with a win over San Diego. The score was 2-1, as senior midfielder Leo Stolz scored a golden goal in the 1st overtime to send the Bruins to the next round. Stolz was definitely the man of the match, as he scored the equalizer in the 2nd half to enable UCLA to extend the match after San Diego had scored a goal in the first half.
The men's team is seeded #2 in the country, based primarily on talent. But every game is basically "hold your breath" time. This squad could go all the way, or it could stumble in the next round. At least one ghost was exorcised, as UCLA had been beaten at USD by the score of 1-0 at the end of September. The Bruins average 1.5 goals scored per match, and 0.8 goals allowed per match this season. There is little if any margin for error in any game this team plays. But as mentioned above, so far, so good. Next up for the Bruins is a round of 16 match this Sunday at home against nemesis UC Berkeley. The Bruins were swept by the Bears this season, so payback would not only be sweet but essential in a knockout tourney.
Finally, in the category of all is right with the world-
The Women's Soccer team demonstrated again why they are the #1 team in the country, the #1 seed in the NCAA tourney, and the defending national champs, but it was not easy on Sunday. On Friday night, by contrast, the Bruins destroyed Harvard 7-0. UCLA was a little slow off the mark, taking more than 1 minute before scoring (just kidding). Sophomore midfielder Annie Alvarado was taken down in the box, and senior midfielder Sarah Killion converted the PK. Killion scored again in the 7th minute off a corner kick to make the score 2-0. Senior forward Kylie McCarthy scored in the 27th minute, and senior forward Rosie White finished the 1st half scoring in the 44th minute.
With a 4-0 lead, and the game well in hand, some teams might take the foot off the pedal, and go into a protect-mode shell. But not this team. The Bruins added three more goals in the 2nd half. Junior forward Taylor Smith scored in the 62nd minute. Senior goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland recorded the assist. Sophomore forward Darian Jenkins and freshman forward MacKenzie Cerda finished the scoring with goals in the 74th and 79th minutes, respectively. Here is the recap from the official site.
On Sunday night, UCLA had a much stiffer test from #11 Pepperdine in the round of 16. But the Bruins again prevailed, by the score of 1-0. Senior midfielder Sam Mewis scored the only goal of the match in the 88th minute. This gives Mewis a team high 16 goals on the season. Here is the official recap. As it typical with this Bruin team, UCLA took the match to the opponent, outshooting Pepperdine 16-6. Yet that only translated to a 1-0 victory. Soccer is not always fair- a lucky bounce here, a missed offside there, and the lesser team can steal a victory. That makes the following even more remarkable.
With this win, the Bruins extended their winning streak to 13 matches, and their unbeaten streak to 44 matches (the last loss was 9/6/13). With another shutout, the Bruins have not allowed a goal in the last 937 minutes of action, as Rowland set an NCAA record for shutouts in a season.
Remember the stat above about the men scoring 1.5 goals per game, and allowing 0.8 goals per game? And this is the #2 seed in the men's tourney. The women score 3 goals per game on average, and allow 0.2 goals on average (4 goals total allowed this season). That is domination.
Next up is a serious bump in the road on the way to #112. The Bruins host #4 ranked Virginia this weekend for a spot in the College Cup. Game time is 5 pm on Friday. That is obviously a serious time conflict with the football game at the Rose Bowl. Here are the four starting times for the quarterfinal matches (all times local by host school)- UCLA at home 5 pm Friday, Florida State at home 2 pm Friday (they have a home football game on Saturday), Stanford at home 7 pm Friday (they are obviously on the road for football), Texas A&M at home 7 pm Saturday (they have a home football game on Thursday).
Here is how I assume the conversation went between Doughnut and the NCAA tournament committee-
Meanwhile, Virginia could be wondering how they wound up having to go on the road to reach the College Cup (just like UCLA had to last year). But the Bruins could also wonder as the #1 team in the country how they drew the #4 team in the quarterfinals. Only the mental midgets at the NCAA could answer that one. Last year, when these teams met in the College Cup, the Bruins prevailed on penalty kicks. So expect an epic showdown this weekend.
Thanks to Bruinette for all the great previews and game threads. We are still on track for #112. I know that Doughnut and his band of merry fools are making it very difficult to follow and support our student-athletes in their continuing quest for success at the highest levels. But you can follow the progress of our Olympic teams right here, and root for our teams.
Go Bruins !!