UCLA Men's Soccer
Opponent: #6 Akron (12-2-2, 2-0-1)
When: 10:00 AM PT, Sunday, November 1, 2015
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Akron, OH
Video: Akron Zips All-Access
Live Stats: Zips LiveStats
Just two numbers tell you quite a bit about the 2015 UCLA Men's Soccer team. The first number is 25--it's the Bruins' current position in the national rankings. The second number is 1.80--the average number of goals per game that the Bruins are conceding.
Putting those two numbers together reveals a lot about this year's team. Obviously the Bruins must be scoring a lot of goals to overcome such a horrendous defensive record. And since consistency starts with good defense, the Bruins must be a wildly inconsistent team. Both deductions are correct, and that's what's made following this tremendously talented team so frustrating.
For example, the Bruins have played #3 Stanford twice. On both occasions, the Bruins outplayed the Cardinal, dominating in possession and creating more scoring chances. What does UCLA have to show for those performances? A draw and a loss. As has happened far too many times this season, the Bruins' sloppiness and lack of focus against Stanford undermined all the good work they did in attack.
Two weeks ago, UCLA destroyed Cal 6-0. A week later, the Bruins lost to Cal by a 4-3 margin. The only thing predictable about Coach Salcedo's team is its unpredictability.
The Bruins have been a terrible road team this season, winning just once in six games. On the other hand, the Bruins have generally performed better against stronger sides, or at least they have recently.
Akron is a relatively high scoring team, averaging 2.2 goals/game, which is nearly what the Bruins average (2.33 goals/game). And like UCLA, Akron is fairly generous at the back, giving up 1.14 goals per game on average. That means that today's match is likely to be open, with each team relying on goals as a remedy for defensive shortcomings.
With just four games left in the regular season, the Bruins have little margin for error if they hope to earn a place in the NCAA Tournament. A loss today wouldn't close out the possibility of postseason play, but it would certainly mean that UCLA would need to finish the season without any further losses. For a team as inconsistent as the Bruins, that seems like an awfully tall order.
UCLA Women's Volleyball
Opponent: #5 Washington (19-2, 9-2)
When: 11:00 AM PT, Sunday, November 1, 2015
Where: Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle, WA
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: GoHuskies LiveStats
When I wrote the preview for Friday's match between UCLA and WSU, I noted that UCLA might be in sole possession of second place in the Pac-12 today. That scenario didn't play out, though, because #5 Washington swept #1 USC the same day. That makes today's battle between the Bruins and the Huskies a fight for second place in the conference. The winner will stay within a game of the Trojans; the loser will drop two games behind the leaders and into a third place tie with Stanford.
For the Bruins, the picture is simple: a win means that UCLA is ready to compete with the conference elite and contend for the Pac-12 title, while a loss would see the Bruins slip down in the standings and probably be left to fight Stanford for a third place finish at best. While either scenario would show progress from last season's fifth place finish, it would also mark another season in which the Bruins didn't seriously contend for the conference title.
Of course, the problem for the Bruins is that the Huskies are a very good team. As they proved on Friday, they are fully deserving of their top-5 ranking. Their only two losses have been to top-10 teams: an early conference away loss to #1 USC, and a narrow defeat by #7 Stanford in Palo Alto.
UCLA hasn't looked at all threatening against top-5 teams this season. The Bruins were easily swept by the Trojans in late September, and were then swept the following week by the Huskies. Both of those matches were played in Pauley Pavilion, so even with home court advantage, UCLA was a clear second best against elite competition.
I'm skeptical that the Bruins will be able to upset the Huskies today. Although an eighth-ranked team should be able to push a fifth-ranked team, everything I've seen from the Bruins this season leads me to believe that they aren't quite ready to take the next step--they are a good team, not a great team, at least at this point of the season. That assessment will change dramatically if UCLA can take the Huskies to five sets or can return home with a win, but either of those results will require a stronger, more mature performance than I've seen so far this year.
UCLA Men's Water Polo
Opponent: #2 Pacific (20-2, 6-0)
When: 1:00 PM PT, Sunday, November 1, 2015
Where: Spieker Aquatics Center, Los Angeles, CA
Live Stats: None
The last two unbeaten teams in conference play meet today when the top-ranked UCLA Bruins (21-0, 5-0) battle the second-ranked Pacific Tigers (20-2, 6-0) in a game with huge MPSF title implications.
Just a week ago, it appeared that the Bruins were heading for an end-of-season showdown with then #2 USC to settle the conference title. Then Pacific upended the Trojans 8-7 and the dynamic of the MPSF race changed.
It would be a tremendous mistake to underestimate the Tigers. Although they've lost a pair of games, both losses were to California, and both were overtime defeats. In other words, Pacific is two-goals shy of being undefeated.
The Tigers' first loss to Cal was in their season-opener back in the first week of September in San Diego. Pacific's second loss to Cal was three weeks ago in the Kap7 SoCal Invitational, and it took two overtimes before the Tigers fell.
Pacific is led by junior Ben Stevenson, senior Alex Obert, and sophomore Devon Thurmond. Stevenson leads the Tigers in goals (51) and is second in assists (28), while Thurmond and Obert are second and third in goals with 42 and 41, respectively.
Pacific also has a strong and steady goalkeeper in senior Brady Moore. Moore is currently third in the conference in goals against average (6.19 goals/game), and he's second in saves.
The Bruins began the week as the MPSF's third highest scoring team and the conference's best defensive team. Junior Ryder Roberts continues to lead UCLA in scoring average (2.17 goals/game), and junior Garrett ranks fourth in the conference in goals against average (6.34 goals/game). It's worth noting, though, that Danner has been rested against weaker opponents, which means that his goals against average has been determined primarily against top competition. To put that into perspective, Danner has played in less than 50% of UCLA's quarters, whereas Brady Moore has played in over 75% of Pacific's quarters.
The Bruins will be desperate to avoid the slow start that made their game against Cal last week such a nail biter. Against a confident and dangerous Pacific team, the Bruins can't afford to do the Tigers any favors.
Unfortunately, unless you're in southern California today, it will be difficult to follow the action. I'll update the scoring from the pool as information becomes available, so following the comments here or following @UCLAWaterPolo on Twitter are your best bets for keeping track of the score.
UCLA Women's Basketball
Opponent: Vanguard (0-0) - Exhibition
When: 2:00 PM PT, Sunday, November 1, 2015
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Live Stats: None
The Bruins are playing an exhibition game against Vanguard at Pauley Pavilion this afternoon. For those who will be in the area today, admission is free.
I'll have a full season preview of the Bruins before they tip-off the regular season on November 13th against St. John's. However, it's worth noting that despite losing only one starter from last year's WNIT-winning team and bringing in another top-10 recruiting class, a preseason poll of conference coaches projects the Bruins to finish fourth in the Pac-12. Furthermore, the Bruins are not in the national preseason top-25. That's not where this program should be given the level and depth of talent on the roster.
Sophomore point guard Jordin Canada and senior Nirra Fields return to lead a strong backcourt that also features three-point specialist Kari Korver, sophomore Kelli Hayes, junior Dominique Williams, and freshman Kennedy Burke. The frontcourt returns a pair of long and athletic sophomores, Monique Billings and Lajahna Drummer, as well as senior Kacy Swain and sophomore Paulina Hersler. The Bruins also add McDonald's All-American forward Ashley Hearn to the mix, giving UCLA a lot of athleticism and talent along the front line. It's worth noting that the Bruins don't have a true center as Savanna Trapp will apparently not be returning to the team.
If you are able to attend today's exhibition game against Vanguard, please share your observations here. For those who want to follow the action but can't make it to Pauley, you'll have to be content with the audio feed provided at uclabruins.com.
UCLA Women's Soccer
Opponent: #4 Stanford (15-2-0, 7-2-0)
When: 3:30 PM PT, Sunday, November 1, 2015
Where: Cagan Stadium, Palo Alto, CA
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: Stanford LiveStats
UCLA's slim chances of qualifying for the postseason were crushed on Thursday when the Bruins were beaten by a touchdown in Berkeley.
The Bruins were on the back foot from the opening kickoff. The Golden Bears rattled the woodwork on several occasions before scoring their first goal in the 41st minute. UCLA conceded twice more within the first six minutes of the second half before the Bruins missed a penalty kick that might have given them a way back into the contest. The miss proved costly. The Bruins seemed deflated by the missed opportunity, which led to another pair of Cal goals in the following seven minutes. Needless to say, the Bruins weren't able to recover from the blitz, and frankly were outclassed by the Golden Bears from start to finish.
UCLA's overall record now stands at 8-8-1, and with just two games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins would need to win both to have a prayer of earning an NCAA tournament bid. Considering the quality of the Bruins recent play and the quality of their remaining opponents, it would take a miracle for UCLA to win out.
Today's opponent is #4 Stanford (15-2-0, 7-2-0). The Cardinal clinched a share of the Pac-12 title earlier this week by beating the Trojans 1-0. Stanford will be anxious to claim the Pac-12 title outright today, so the Bruins are in for a tough match against a talented, motivated opponent. The fact that the Cardinal leads the conference in scoring and is second in goals against average demonstrates how formidable Stanford is.
The Bruins will need to be at their very best and will need a fair bit of luck to find a way to stay with Stanford today. Unfortunately, it's likely to be another long afternoon for Coach Cromwell's crew.