And then there were two. Three Bruin teams advanced to the postseason in November, in the quest to reach #112 and more. And the team with the best chance on paper, the Women's Soccer team, fell short. Others can talk about Black Friday as a shopping day. But from now on, Black Friday to me will be the day the Women's Soccer team lost a close one to a solid opponent and the Football team lost in a rout to a non-solid opponent.
---First, Women's Soccer. The Bruins capped another excellent season with only their first loss of the season, falling to Virginia 2-1. Here is the recap from the official site. Unfortunately, in single elimination, that is all it takes. This was the first time the Bruins gave up two goals in a match since 11/23/12 (over two years ago), when the Bruins lost in the quarterfinals of the 2012 tournament. Just think about that for a minute. UCLA played 49 matches, or 4410 minutes (not counting overtime) without giving up two goals in a single match. This was truly a team for the ages. It is a shame that they ran up against a tough Virginia team, which was able to avenge the Bruins' semifinal win in the 2013 tournament.
I have every confidence in Coach Cromwell. But there will be some huge holes to fill next season. In order of minutes played, here are the seniors who will need to be replaced next year-
Goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland. Holds the NCAA career record for shutouts. National starting goalkeeper on the US U-20 national team.
Defender Abby Dahlkemper. A three time All American selection, on her way to a fourth selection. Member of the US U-23 national team, and the Honda Award winner for Women's Soccer in 2013.
Defender Megan Oyster. Had the assist on the championship winning goal in the 2013 College Cup.
Defender Caprice Dydasco. Member of the US U-23 national team. Scored the Bruins lone goal in the Virginia match on Black Friday.
Midfielder Sarah Killion. Member of the senior US national team in the 2014 Algarve Cup.
Defender Ally Courtnall. Played for the Canada U-17 team at the World Cup in 2010. Academic All-American, majoring in Communication Studies.
Midfielder Sam Mewis. Earned her first full senior US cap in the 2014 Algarve Cup. Academic All-American, as an English major. Bruins' leading scorer. Pac-12 player of the year, and will be an All-American.
Forward Rosie White. Has over 50 caps at the senior level for New Zealand, including the 2012 Olympics and World Cup qualification matches this season. Made the winning shot from the penalty mark in last year's semifinal shoot-out win over Virginia.
Forward Kylie McCarthy. Was a starter down the stretch for the Bruins this season. Has played for the US U-18 and U-17 teams.
These are not Coach Cromwell's recruits. But they are Coach Cromwell's players. Coach Cromwell is the right person to reload, but what a group to replace. Hats off to all these student-athletes for some great times. You will be missed.
---For Men's Soccer, the third time was the charm. This has been a hard team to figure out, especially in comparison to the Women's team. With the women, you knew what you would get- a win, usually in convincing fashion, until Friday. But with the men, you have wins over #1 teams, and getting swept during the regular season in two matches against the #15 seed, Berkeley. The NCAA seeding committee is normally befuddled in any event, but just to show how confusing this team is, the Bruins are the #2 seed, despite losing twice to the #15 seed.
But the Bruins came through on Sunday night, with a 3-2 win over Berkeley in the third matchup of the season. The first goal last night was scored in the 30th minute by freshman defender Chase Gasper, who picked a very good time for his first collegiate goal. The Bruins went up 2-0 in the 35th minute, as sophomore midfielder Brian Iloski scored his first goal of the season. After Berkeley scored to make the score 2-1, UCLA widened the lead to two again, with a goal in the 55th minute by junior midfielder Jordan Vale. This was oddly Vale's first goal of the season as well. So UCLA had three goals by three different players, all of whom scored their first goal of the season. Talk about timely.
Berkeley scored again in the 74th minute, and the Bruins held on for dear life, winning the game by the final score of 3-2. I am not sure how often Coach Salcedo talks to Coach Mora, but both teams seem to ease up on the gas with leads. Fortunately last night, the Men's Soccer team came out on top. But a more killer instinct could come in handy going forward.
A special call-out also to senior midfielder Leo Stolz for last night's performance. Stolz assisted on the first and third goals. But more importantly, he preserved a scoreless tie early in the match with a clearance off the line. Who knows what might have happened if Berkeley had taken the lead. But thanks to Stolz, that was not an issue. With the win, the Bruins advance as host for a quarterfinal match this weekend against North Carolina, which upset #7 seed Clemson earlier on Sunday.
---Men's Water Polo is on the doorstep of a long-awaited national title. The Bruins have been close in recent years, but the road is pretty open for UCLA this season. The Bruins are the #1 seed. This means that the #2 seed Stanford and the #3 seed $C will be playing each other, with one getting knocked out before the national championship final.
The national tournament is being held at UCSD. The Bruins will open play against the #4 seed at 1 pm (Pacific) on Saturday. And the only rub in the playing the #4 seed is that this happens to be the tournament host.. As Long Beach State showed in the MPSF conference tourney, if the host team can feed off the crowd, they can be a lot more dangerous than they were in the regular season. But UCSD will have to do way more than they did in the regular season to have a chance against the Bruins. UCLA beat UCSD 13-5 in the season opening tournament in UCSD's pool. So the Bruins know this venue. The Bruins beat UCSD 17-5 again at home in the SoCal Tournament. So that is two easy wins. Let's go for three.
If the Bruins can beat UCSD, then it is on to the finals at 3:10 pm (Pacific time) on Sunday. The Bruins would face either Stanford or $C. UCLA is 2-1 against Stanford this year, splitting two home matches and winning at a neutral Stockton site. UCLA is 3-1 against $C this year, including two wins on neutral sites and a win at $C's pool. Every match starts 0-0. But this looks like a solid opportunity for a breakthrough for Coach Adam Wright and the Bruins.
--- Finally, another Bruin team enters the postseason in December. Women's Volleyball was awarded the #12 seed. This may seem somewhat generous, given the fact that the Bruins were ranked #17 in the most recent national poll. Having the #12 seed will enable UCLA to host the first two rounds in the tournament. First up is LIU Brooklyn. That match will be at 8 pm Friday in Pauley. LIU Brooklyn is from the Northeastern conference, and comes in as the #59 team in RPI. The Bruins swept the Blackbirds (add another mascot to my list) in the season opening LMU tournament.
Before the LIU match, #16 ranked but unseeded Long Beach State will face University of San Diego. This match will begin at 5:30 pm in Pauley. The winners of the Long Beach-San Diego and UCLA-LIU matches will meet at 7 pm Saturday night in Pauley to see who advances to the Louisville Regional for the Sweet 16. And looming in this part of the bracket if the seedings hold will be #5 seed (and #4 ranked) Penn State. So the committee may have provided a nice reward by enabling UCLA to host the first two rounds, but there is a giant obstacle in our future if we can advance. One step at a time, as UCLA Football should have remembered.
We are so close to #112. This has been a solid fall season for our Olympic Sports student-athletes. Hats off again to the fantastic Women's Soccer team, and here's to the continued march for #112 by Men's Water Polo and Men's Soccer, and the start of postseason play for Women's Volleyball.
Go Bruins !!