The #1 Bruins enjoyed a terrific start to their 2015 campaign with a season-opening triumph over New Mexico. Although the Lobos held UCLA in check in the first half, and in fact out-shot the Bruins 6-4 through the first 45 minutes, they posed no real threat in front of the UCLA goal.
The Bruins displayed more intensity and bite in attack in the second half, repeatedly creating scoring chances and out-shooting the Lobos 11-2. A couple of strong saves by the Lobos goalkeeper kept the game scoreless through the first hour of the match. The breakthrough for the Bruins came in the 62nd minute courtesy of a corner kick by freshman midfielder Jose Hernandez. Though the corner was curled into the center of the box, it found its way back to the near post where freshman Malcolm Jones was waiting. Despite his first shot attempt being blocked, Jones hammered the rebound back across goal into the far corner of the net to give UCLA the lead.
However, as we saw last season and in the Bruins' exhibition games this year, UCLA has a tendency to concede late goals. Against New Mexico, the Bruins lead came under serious threat 10 minutes later when senior defensive midfielder Grady Howe had to make a goal-saving clearance to secure the UCLA lead.
UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes finished with three saves, including a fine diving block in the second half to keep the Lobos off the board. Coach Salcedo gave debuts to half a dozen of his outstanding freshmen including a start for freshman midfielder Jose Hernandez. In almost every respect, it was a very successful opener for the Bruins.
The Bruins (1-0-0) are on the road this week for a pair of matches against two top east coast teams. On Friday the Bruins face #13 Maryland, and on Monday UCLA will be in action against #3 Georgetown. We'll know a lot more about the strengths and weaknesses of this year's team after those matches.
After losing just two games in Amanda Cromwell's first two seasons at the helm, the UCLA women's soccer team found itself in unfamiliar circumstances as it prepared to face #13 Wisconsin last week. The 12th-ranked Bruins entered the match after losing their season opener against Long Beach State 1-0, and barely edging San Diego on a golden goal by Darien Jenkins in double overtime. Could Coach Cromwell take a largely inexperienced group and quickly develop another title contender?
The verdict is still out on whether the 2015 Bruins have what it takes to consistently compete with the nation's elite teams again, but the Bruins' 2-1 victory over a very good Wisconsin team on Sunday is promising. In particular, the Bruins demonstrated the same tenacity and resilience that characterized Coach Cromwell's previous two squads, which I think ultimately reflects the character of the coach.
The Bruins were on top of the Badgers from the kickoff and exerted pressure on the Wisconsin defense throughout the opening half hour. Therefore it was consistent with the run of play when Gabbi Miranda ran onto a pass from Annie Alvarado and ripped a long range effort into the back of the net.
Unfortunately, UCLA was able to hold the lead for just about three minutes. UCLA goalkeeper Cassie Sternbach made a terrific save to deny Wisconsin's Marisa Kresge, and then Miranda cleared Kresge's follow-up off the line before Rose Lavelle knocked the rebound between the posts.
The Bruins kept attacking in the second half and forced Wisconsin's goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem to make several fantastic saves to keep the score level. Finally, in the 74th minute, a UCLA corner kick was punched away by Clem but the ball was retrieved by Madison Tye. Tye chipped the ball to Amber Munerlyn, and although her header was blocked by a Badger defender, Munerlyn was able to toe poke the rebound home for the game-winning goal.
GOAL UCLA!!! Amber Munerlyn nets her first goal as a Bruin to give UCLA a 2-1 lead at 73:56! pic.twitter.com/cHzeDDB01U
— UCLA Women's Soccer (@UCLAWSoccer) August 31, 2015
UCLA fully deserved the victory. The Bruins dominated possession, and led the Badgers in both shots (18 to 7) and shots on goal (9 to 4).
The Bruins follow up their victory with two tough home fixtures this week. On Friday, the Bruins face #2 Virginia (a rematch of last season's NCAA quarterfinal), and on Sunday, UCLA will mess with Texas.
I'd like to be able to write that UCLA Women's Volleyball opened the season in a manner that inspires confidence that this year's team can contend for the Pac-12 title. Unfortunately, after playing reasonably well in the season opener against Virginia on Saturday, the #20 Bruins were swept on Sunday by unranked Loyola Marymount. It's the second straight season that LMU has swept the Bruins at the start of the season, and it strongly suggests that Coach Sealy hasn't solved the problem of inconsistent performances that plagued last year's team.
For me, the big surprise of the weekend was that Ryann Chandler is apparently the first choice setter to start the season. Everything else about Coach Sealy's team selection and game tactics was exactly as I predicted in the Bruins Nation Women's Volleyball season preview. As far as I'm concerned, those decisions aren't an issue if Coach Sealy produces positive results. On the other hand, when the Bruins' performances border on embarrassing, then Coach Sealy's tactics and team management deserves deeper scrutiny.
UCLA looked deserving of its top-20 ranking against the Cavaliers on Saturday. The Bruins swept the Cavaliers 25-19, 25-21, 25-16 while hitting a respectable .294. Although Jordan Anderson and Reily Buechler led the team with 12 and 13 kills, respectively, the teeth of the Bruins' attack was through the middle. Claire Felix tallied 9 kills while hitting .533, and Jennie Frager notched 7 kills with a .467 attack percentage. Only Haley Lawless (-.143 hitting percentage) struggled to produce a meaningful contribution in attack.
Defensively, Rachel Inouye led the Bruins with 14 digs, and Taylor Formico chipped in with 10 digs. Setter Ryann Anderson added 38 assists.
On Sunday, the Bruins faced Loyola Marymount (0-1). The Lions had lost their home opener on Friday to the Cavaliers, so there was no good reason to expect LMU to come out and blitz the Bruins. But that's exactly what happened.
From the outset, the Bruins looked sluggish, and the UCLA middle attack was virtually nonexistent--Chandler set the middle less than half as often as she had against the Cavaliers. Jordan Anderson led the UCLA attack with 14 kills, but coupled with 10 errors, her hitting percentage for the match was an anaemic .121. Reily Buechler, who had played so well against Virginia the day before, was also error-prone; she collected 8 kills but committed 6 attack errors and compiled a .059 attack percentage. Haley Lawless wasn't much better, finishing with 6 kills, 4 hitting errors, and a .125 hitting percentage. In short, the Bruins were limp and predictable in attack.
For what it's worth, two freshmen--Zana Muno and Kyra Rogers--made cameo appearances in the match. Given the way some of UCLA's more experienced players have performed so far this season, Coach Sealy needs to give strong consideration to choosing talent over experience. With the Bruins apparently headed for another season of mediocrity, Coach Sealy needs to rethink his management of the program.
UCLA heads to Honolulu this week for the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic. The Bruins' final opponent of the tournament will be #18 Hawai'i; that match should give a better indication of the direction in which the UCLA women's volleyball program is heading in 2015.
This Week In UCLA Sports
Friday, September 4
- UCLA Men's Soccer vs. Maryland in College Park, MD (4:00 PM PT)
- UCLA Women's Soccer vs. Virginia at Drake Stadium (7:00 PM PT)
- UCLA Women's Volleyball vs. American in Honolulu, HI (7:30 PM PT)
- UCLA Cross Country vs. Nature's Bakery in Sparks, NV (8:30 PM PT)
Saturday, September 5
- UCLA Men's Water Polo vs. UC Davis in San Diego, CA (9:20 AM PT)
- UCLA Football vs. Virginia in Pasadena, CA (12:30 PM PT)
- UCLA Men's Water Polo vs. UC Irvine in San Diego, CA (1:20 PM PT)
- UCLA Women's Volleyball vs. Iowa in Honolulu, HI (7:30 PM PT)
Sunday, September 6
- UCLA Men's Water Polo vs. Concordia in San Diego, CA (8:30 AM PT)
- UCLA Men's Water Polo vs. Pepperdine in San Diego, CA (1:50 PM PT)
- UCLA Women's Soccer vs. Texas at Drake Stadium (7:00 PM PT)
- UCLA Women's Volleyball vs. Hawai'i in Honolulu, HI (8:00 PM PT)
Monday, September 7
- UCLA Men's Soccer vs. Georgetown in Washington D.C. (10:00 AM PT)
That's your UCLA Olympic sports roundup for the week. With plenty of action scheduled this week, including big matches for both soccer teams, there will be a lot to report on in next week's edition.