Unranked UCLA Men's Soccer played their best game of the season on Monday with a 4-0 thrashing of the San Diego State Aztecs in the Bruins' Pac-12 home opener. In fact, it was the first time this season that UCLA lived up to its preseason #1 ranking and, I think it's fair to say, it was the first time this season that the Bruins played to their potential.
Although the Bruins didn't get on the scoreboard until the second half, their first half performance wasn't characterized by the slow starts that have plagued UCLA for most of the season. The Bruins created chance after chance in the opening 45 minutes while holding the Aztecs to a single shot.
UCLA's attack became even sharper in the second frame. The breakthrough goal was the result of the individual brilliance of Seyi Adekoya. He turned his marker along the left sideline, using his speed to win possession, and then while the defender did his best to wrestle Adekoya to the ground, Seyi was able to use his strength to break free, dribble across the box, and cut his shot back into the far corner of the net.
Just over a minute later, super freshman Jose Hernandez doubled the Bruins' lead when he scored from a penalty kick.
Another thirty seconds later, Hernandez scored again when Willie Raygoza tapped a perfectly timed pass into the path of Hernandez as he run into space in the right channel.
The Bruins weren't finished. They added a fourth in the 75th minute courtesy of a penalty kick by freshman Stephen Payne, his first career goal for UCLA.
Surprisingly, UCLA was solid and comfortable at the back, restricting the Aztecs to just three shots, none of which were on-goal. Juan Cervantes gets credit for keeping a clean sheet, but he wasn't required to make a single save in 90 minutes.
I strongly encourage everyone to watch the game highlights--this was the performance that we've been waiting to see all season.
It's important to remember, though, that SDSU (5-4-2, 0-3-0) is one of the conference's weaker teams. Although the Aztecs have a decent defensive record, they have yet to score a goal in Pac-12 play. That said, the Bruins played much better as a team on Monday, which raises some questions about future use of personnel. For instance, freshman Jackson Yueill is an extremely talented player, but the UCLA midfield looked more cohesive and balanced without him. Coach Salcedo needs to re-examine the combinations he uses in midfield and how best to utilize his players to ensure the Bruins retain the muscular, versatile, and balanced midfield on display Monday night.
Up next for UCLA is #3 Stanford (Friday) and California (Monday). By next week, we'll know if the Bruins (6-5-0, 2-1-0) have managed to turn around their season.
UCLA entered the weekend with a 1-2-0 mark in the conference, and needing a pair of home wins against the Arizona schools to get back into the Pac-12 title race. Unfortunately, the Bruins fell just short of that goal.
UCLA couldn't have hoped for a better start to the weekend. The Bruins scored early and often against the Wildcats, taking the lead in the fifth minute of the game when Darian Jenkins was first to a rebound from a header by Kodi Lavrusky.
GOAL UCLA!!! Darian Jenkins earns a corner & it results in a goal by her, w/ Kodi Lavrusky earning the assist! 1-0 pic.twitter.com/luJVcOjqgi— UCLA Women's Soccer (@UCLAWSoccer) October 10, 2015
The Bruins added another goal in the 22nd minute. Amber Munerlyn collected a pass from Zoey Goralski and blasted a shot off an Arizona defender and past the Wildcat 'keeper.
21:46 - GOAL UCLA! Amber Munerlyn with her second goal of the year! Zoey Goralski with the assist. UCLA leads 2-0! pic.twitter.com/PVzKygGVmH— UCLA Women's Soccer (@UCLAWSoccer) October 10, 2015
UCLA's lead ballooned to three when Goralski's cross found Lavrusky in the box. Lavrusky headed the cross into the back of the net for her second goal of the season.
The Bruins took a 3-0 lead into the halftime break, but less than thirty seconds after the restart, their lead was four. The Bruins were awarded a penalty kick, and Annie Alvarado stepped up and scored.
UCLA wasn't finished. In the 64th minute, midfielder Claire Winter whipped a long-range shot past the Arizona goalkeeper to give the Bruins a 5-0 advantage.
63:18 - GOAL UCLA! Claire Winter with her first career goal, assisted by MacKenzie Cerda! Bruins lead 5-0! pic.twitter.com/EaviuXhCO6— UCLA Women's Soccer (@UCLAWSoccer) October 10, 2015
Although the Bruins conceded a late goal, the 5-1 final score reflected the Bruins' superiority in attack. UCLA's third goalkeeper of the season, Siri Ervik, tallied two saves in 90 minutes between the posts.
Having beaten the tougher of the two opponents, the Bruins must have liked their chances for a weekend sweep. And although UCLA made a strong start against the Sun Devils, the Bruins wilted in the Sunday afternoon heat.
The Bruins bright start in the contest was rewarded when Kodi Lavrusky struck a beautiful shot from distance into the top corner of the net.
GOAL UCLA! Kodi Lavrusky with a beauty to the upper right corner at 8:26. Assist to MacKenzie Cerda! UCLA leads 1-0 pic.twitter.com/8A2UOxHq1z— UCLA Women's Soccer (@UCLAWSoccer) October 11, 2015
But just four minutes later, the Bruins' lead had vanished due to another case of poor defending. After the equalizer, here weren't a lot of great chances for either team, although on balance, ASU had more of the attacking play through the rest of regulation and two overtime periods. Arizona State escaped being penalized for a clear handball in the box, and the Bruins may consider themselves unlucky that an overtime shot by Kristiana Konkol-Mroczkowski struck the framework and caromed out, but it's difficult to argue that the Bruins deserved the win.
Unfortunately, UCLA was once again without Taylor Smith. Although Darian Jenkins has been in good form this season, the Bruins aren't the same without Smith leading the line. However, it was good to see Gabbi Miranda back in action, even if it was in a limited role. Miranda's return should strengthen the UCLA defense, which is an area that still needs plenty of help.
UCLA has a single game this week--a road game in Corvallis. It's a must-win game for the Bruins. Oregon State (5-5-3, 1-4-0) sits in 10th place in the Pac-12 standings. The sixth-place Bruins (6-6-1, 2-2-1) simply can't afford to drop this game.
UCLA made its annual trip to the Rocky Mountains last weekend. The trip hasn't been a pleasant one for the Bruins in the past two years, with UCLA managing just one high altitude win during that time. However, the Bruins opponents, Utah and Colorado, entered the weekend with a combined conference record of 3-5, so neither team should have posed a particularly difficult challenge for Coach Sealy's squad.
BRUINS WIN!!! UCLA beats Utah in four sets, 17-25, 25-12, 25-15, 25-16 to improve to 12-3 on the year and 3-2 in Pac-12 play.— UCLA Women's VB (@UCLAWomensVB) October 10, 2015
The #12 Bruins started the weekend with a 3-1 victory over Utah. After a pretty dreadful start to the match that saw the Bruins lose the first set 17-25 and hit a horrible -.053, UCLA got its act together and went on a strong run to win the next three sets, 25-12, 25-15, 25-16.
Claire Felix was outstanding, amassing 11 kills in 15 attacks, and adding a team-leading 4 blocks. As usual, Jordan Anderson led the Bruins in kills (18), though she hit a below-average .170. Reilly Buechler add 9 kills, while Jennie Frager and Haley Lawless tallied 8 apiece to give the Bruins fantastic scoring balance. Ryann Chandler was credited with 48 assists, and Taylor Formico registered 16 digs.
UCLA's performance on Sunday in Colorado was solid rather than spectacular, but that was all that was needed to earn a sweep against the Buffs. After edging Colorado in a tight first set, 26-24, the Bruins pulled away in the final two sets, 25-15, 25-19.
The Bruins relied heavily on Jordan Anderson, and she delivered with 20 kills and a .444 hitting percentage. Claire Felix continued her run of strong performances with a .545 hitting percentage resulting in six kills, and she recorded three blocks. Jennie Frager nearly matched Felix, tallying six kills with a .500 attack percentage and adding three blocks of her own. Reilly Buechler and Haley Lawless contributed 11 and 8 kills, respectively.
Once again libero Taylor Formico led all Bruins with double-digit digs (12), while Ryann Chandler dished out 46 assists.
With the pair of wins, UCLA improves to 13-3 for the season and 4-2 in the Pac-12. In terms of competing with the conference elite, the Bruins have a critical pair of matches this week as the Arizona schools will be in Westwood. First up is #14 Arizona on Friday; then on Sunday, the Bruins take on #10 ASU--one of four Pac-12 teams in the national top-10. UCLA has to win at least one of these matches to be in position to claim a top-4 spot in the conference by the end of the season.
Men's Water Polo
The Bruins have proven once again that they're the best team in the nation, both in the polls and in the pool.
This past weekend, UCLA Men's Water Polo captured the Kap7 SoCal Invitational title, beating three top-10 teams along the way, including a comfortable victory over #4 California in the tournament semifinal and a dramatic win over #2 Southern Cal in the championship game.
The Kap7 SoCal Invitational trophy makes a matching bookend for the Kap7 NorCal Invitational trophy that the Bruins won three week previously.
UCLA's weekend started with an opening-round match against #16 Pomona-Pitzer. The result was predictable. The Bruins led 4-0 at the end of the first quarter, 10-2 at halftime, 17-4 after three quarters, and finished with a 22-6 victory.
Four Bruins registered hat tricks: junior Alec Zwaneveld, redshirt freshman Austin Rone, freshman Spencer Farrar, and junior Joey Fuentes. Sophomore Jack Grover added a brace. Freshman Alex Wolf started in goal for UCLA, collecting 5 saves and the win.
UCLA's regular starters were in the pool for the quarterfinal match against #7 UC Irvine. Again, the result was predictable. The Bruins jumped out to an 8-2 halftime lead and iced the game in the second half to win 13-4.
Junior All-American Garrett Danner made nine saves in three quarters of action before giving way to Wolf. Senior defender Anthony Daboub led UCLA's attack with a trio of goals, while junior attacker Ryder Roberts added a pair.
On Sunday, the Bruins met #4 Cal in the first of the tournament's semifinals. UCLA had struggled to put away the Golden Bears in the semifinals of the NorCal tournament, but this time, the Bruins built a big lead through the first three periods and won comfortably, 13-8.
Ten Bruins contributed with goals. Ryder Roberts had another strong outing, netting three goals, and Patrick Fellner add a brace. Garrett Danner grabbed 12 saves in the winning effort, setting up a championship showdown with the #2 Trojans.
As expected, the final was a close contest. The Trojans raced to a 3-0 lead, but UCLA hit back for two before the end of the first. The Bruins took the lead midway through the second thanks to a pair of goals by Ryder Roberts. However Southern Cal scored before the halftime whistle to knot the game at 4-4.
UCLA upped its game in the third. Three goals by Anthony Daboub and another by Roberts gave the Bruins a three goal cushion heading into the final frame. USC got back into the game with a pair of goals to open the fourth. After Max Irving added a goal for the Bruins, the Trojans scored two more times to tie the score at nine with only 22 seconds left of the clock. Seven seconds later, UCLA was back in the lead as Patrick Fellner fired a shot into the back of the cage. UCLA 10, USC 9.
The Bruins still needed a defensive stop, and they got it. According to the official site, "(b)ased on available records, tonight's win was the Bruins' first SoCal Tournament title."
The Bruins are now 17-0 in 2015. They've beaten #2 USC, #3 Stanford, and #4 California (twice). There is no doubt that UCLA deserves to be recognized as the best team in the country.
But when you're the top-ranked team in the nation, you have to prove it every week and in every game. This week the Bruins travel to northern California, with a stop in Palo Alto on Sunday to play the Cardinal. It's a crucial match for the Bruins if they hope to claim the MPSF title in 2015, and for what it's worth, it's one of the few regular season water polo matches that is being televised on the Pac-12 Network. Tune in if you want to see Coach Wright's truly great team in action.
This Week In UCLA Sports
Thursday, October 15
- UCLA Football vs. Stanford in Palo Alto, CA (7:30 PM PT)
- UCLA Cross Country at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in Madison, WI (9:00 AM PT)
- UCLA Women's Volleyball vs. Arizona at Pauley Pavilion (6:00 PM PT)
- UCLA Men's Soccer vs. Stanford at Drake Stadium (8:00 PM PT)
Saturday, October 17
- UCLA Men's Water Polo vs. Stanford in Palo Alto, CA (10:30 AM PT)
- UCLA Women's Soccer vs. Oregon State in Corvallis, OR (1:00 PM PT)
Sunday, October 18
- UCLA Women's Volleyball vs. Arizona State in the John Wooden Center (1:30 PM PT)
- UCLA Men's Water Polo vs.San Jose State in San Jose, CA (2:00 PM PT)
- UCLA Men's Soccer vs. California at Drake Stadium (7:00 PM PT)