Yesterday, I sat down to watch the 49ers pull off their best impression of a Nel Mazzne offense. I then remembered that it was basically UCLA day on the Pac-12 network. So I was able to watch two excellent contests, and one pratfall. But at least nobody was wearing LA Steel (aka razor blade gray).
--- Before we get to the soccer, major kudos to Men's Water Polo. There are four or five teams clustered at the top- UCLA, $C, Stanford, Berkeley, and maybe Long Beach State. So whenever there is a match between two of the four or five, it is a big deal. And when that match is UCLA at $C, which has basically dominated the Bruins (particularly in the postseason) since Doughnut had to hire a coach, it is an even bigger deal.
UCLA came into last night's match ranked #1 in the country, and $C was ranked #3. The teams traded goals in the first period, UCLA scoring first and $C countering each time, to tie the score 3-3 at the end of the period. The teams then traded goals again in the second period, with $C scoring first and the Bruins countering each time, until $C scored the final goal to send the teams to half time with the Bruins down 6-5.
UCLA scored the first two goals of the third period to take a 7-6 lead. The teams then traded goals, with $C scoring and UCLA countering, including a goal just before the end of the period, and the Bruins led 9-8 going into the final period. The last goal of the contest, surprisingly, was scored with more than seven minutes remaining in the game, as UCLA took a 10-8 lead, which held up as the final score.
Sophomore goalkeeper Garrett Danner was unbelievable down the stretch, including making a point blank save with his noggin to maintain UCLA's cushion. Sophomore attacker Ryder Roberts led the UCLA scoring with three goals. Senior attacker Paul Roberts and sophomore center Gordon Marshall added two goals each. Here is the game summary.
With the win, UCLA moves to 22-2 on the season. With a 6-0 conference record, the Bruins have a one game lead on Stanford and Long Beach State, and at least two games on everybody else in the conference. The Bruins make a Northern California trip next, with a conference match at #8 Pacific in Stockton on Saturday and a non-conference match at #14 Davis on Sunday. Then comes the final conference showdown the following week, before the MPSF tournament starts. The Bruins are on pace for the #1 seed in the MPSF tourney, which would be huge.
--- Turning to soccer, let's get the disappointment out of the way first. After a very successsful road trip to beat previous #1 Washington and Oregon State, UCLA's Men's Soccer team had jumped from #6 in the rankings to #1. But the Bruins won't be #1 when the next rankings come out, after laying an egg with a 2-2 draw at home against Stanford on Thursday, and a 0-1 loss last night at home against Berkeley. The Bruins finish the season series against #8 ranked Stanford with two draws, and finish the season series against #17 Berkeley with two losses. Ouch.
Here is the summary for the draw with Stanford. And here is the summary for the loss. In the Stanford match, the Bruins gave up a goal off a corner kick in the 14th minute. UCLA bounced back with two goals by freshman star Seyi Adekoya (giving him five on the season), one within a minute of the Stanford goal and the other in the 59th minute. But the Bruins were not able to maintain the lead, as Stanford scored the equalizer in the 77th minute.
And the lone goal in the Berkeley match last night was just plain ugly. Think of Doughnut chowing down on a Baker's Dozen. Think of Block in a hardhat at the groundbreaking ceremony for the campus hotel. Think of TIARA on the sidelines sending Bryce back in for Zach. That's how bad it was. A lazy pass from a UCLA defender in the penalty area to the UCLA goalie, followed by a lackadaisical dribble and attempted clearance, led to a gift steal by Berkeley and a tap in for the only goal of the match. Ouch ouch ouch.
So another underwhelming display by a team coached by one of Doughnut's hires. The Bruins fall back to 10-4-4 overall. UCLA is still first in the conference with 17 points from a 5-2-2 record. But the next two teams, Washington and Cal are down by four points but each have two games in hand, so either or both could catch the Bruins.
One item to notice from the stat lines of recent matches is that Salcedo seems to be relying on a rope-a-dope strategy, and hoping to score on counters against the flow of play. As a West Brom fan, I can say that if you have inferior talent, that may be a decent approach. But that should not apply to the Bruins. Against Stanford, UCLA was outshot 16-5. Against Berkeley, UCLA was outshot 9-7. The prior week, UCLA was outshot 14-5 in the 2-1 win in Corvallis (again, goals against the flow count just as much). And UCLA was outshot 21-8 in the 2-1 win in Seattle. The Bruins have 26 goals in 18 matches. The Bruins have only conceded 15 goals, but they are living on the edge.
Maybe a change of strategy would be in order. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But it may be broke in this case. The Bruins have a bye this week, so there should be time to sort this all out before the final match of the regular season in two weeks and the start of NCAA tournament play thereafter.
--- Let's end on a high note. And in contrast to the men's team, the Women's Soccer team continues to roll. What do Sam Mewis, Sarah Killion, Taylor Smith, Rosie White and Darian Jenkins have in common, besides being great players for UCLA? They have each scored more goals this season than all the UCLA opponents combined. Now that is dominance.
The Bruins took their high-flying show to the state of Washington, and came away with a tight 1-0 win over #22 Washington State in Pullman on Friday and a 6-0 steamrolling of #17 Washington yesterday. The two shutouts give senior goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland 15 clean sheets on the year, including six straight.
Junior forward Taylor Smith scored the lone goal in the Washington State match in the 48th minute. But the Women's Team definitely does not hunker down in their own end. The Bruins outshot Washington State 23-6, and had seven corners to two, and clearly dominated play.
In the Washington match, the six goals came from five different scorers and an own goal. Taylor Smith, senior midfielder Sam Mewis, senior midfielder Sarah Killion, freshman Gabrielle Matulich (with the first goal of her collegiate career) and senior forward Kylie McCarthy all scored for the Bruins. UCLA outshot Washington 13-11, so again did not take the pedal off the metal even with an early lead.
The Bruins finish up the regular season on Friday night at $C. And NCAA tournament play starts the week thereafter. This is a special group of Bruins, poised for another deep run. The Bruins are now 17-0-2 and have outscored their opponents 52-4. And yet two brain surgeons gave their first place votes in the coaches' poll to one-loss Florida State. Unbelievable. The Bruins have clinched the automatic conference berth in the NCAA tournament, and will get a national seed, unlike last year's joke 5 slot. But this team does not seem interested in resting on laurels. They attack early and often. It is great fun to watch them when they are in gear, which is basically all the time.
Go Bruins !! And as promised, no photos of UCLA gray with this article.