UCLA Women's Soccer
Opponent: Wake Forest (2-1-2)
When: 4:00 PM PDT, Friday, September 11, 2015
Where: Spry Stadium, Winston-Salem, NC
Live Stats: Wake Forest GameTracker
Oh what a difference a week makes! Last week started with the Bruins ranked 14th nationally and preparing for a homestand after defeating #13 Wisconsin 2-1. It wasn't a shock when UCLA dropped the first game against #1 Virginia 2-1, but the Bruins followed up the loss with a 2-1 defeat by Texas. That pair of losses matched UCLA's total number of losses from the previous two seasons combined, and left the Bruins (2-3-0) with lots of questions.
UCLA has to start finding answers today. The Bruins play the first game of their weekend road trip to the east coast this evening against Wake Forest. It won't be easy for the Bruins to turn things around, but UCLA desperately needs to pick up momentum before the start of the Pac-12 season. With just two other matches left before the start of conference play, there isn't much time left for the Bruins to right the ship, especially considering that UCLA's next two opponents are #4 North Carolina, and #14 Pepperdine.
It's probably a good thing that UCLA is no longer ranked in the top-25. The Bruins may have been overwhelmed by expectations--after all, despite having a talented roster, UCLA entered the season with only two returning starters, none of whom were defenders. It takes time for a defense to gel, and the fact that the Bruins have a brutal non-conference schedule has demonstrated that UCLA is a work in progress.
Wake Forest is far from a pushover. The Demon Deacons opened the season by beating Georgia 4-0, and enjoyed an outstanding tournament last weekend by beating Oregon 1-0 and drawing 1-1 with #25 William & Mary. Wake Forest has allowed just three goals in its opening five matches, so the Bruins should anticipate difficulty in unlocking the Demon Deacon defense.
It doesn't help that the Bruins have struggled for goals this year: UCLA is averaging just one goal per game in 2015. Considering the fact that most of UCLA's established, experienced players are forwards, there was reason to expect that the Bruins would rely on their offense to win games early in the season. That hasn't happened so far, and it's too much to expect UCLA's inexperienced back line to keep a clean sheet in order to give the Bruins a chance to win.
UCLA Women's Soccer has shown tremendous resilience in the Cromwell era. I believe in this team, and I'm confident that it will start to play excellent soccer this season. But if this team is going to contend for the Pac-12 title, the Bruins have to start playing better soccer very soon.
UCLA Women's Volleyball
Opponent: #18 San Diego (5-1)
When: 4:00 PM PDT, Friday, September 11, 2015
Where: Thunderdome, Santa Barbara, CA
Audio: Bruin Audio
Live Stats: UCSB Stats
Let me repeat what I opened with in my UCLA Women's Soccer preview: oh what a difference a week makes! After a dreadful performance against Loyola Marymount that resulted in an LMU sweep and a drop in the national polls that saw the Bruins clinging to the final spot in the top-25, UCLA's fortunes changed in Honolulu at the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic. The Bruins suddenly started playing better--much better, in fact--and swept their first two opponents (American University and Iowa) before downing #17 Hawai'i 3-1 in the tournament championship match.
It wasn't just a change of venue that led to the turnaround by the Bruins. Coach Sealy inserted freshman setter Zana Muno into the starting lineup, and the results were impressive. In all three matches of the tournament, Muno recorded double-doubles (assists and digs). Against Hawai'i in the championship, Muno neared a triple-double with 42 assists, 20 digs, and 7 kills. Those are rare numbers for any setter, but particularly so for a freshman setter making her third start of the season. In the final, Muno led the Bruins in attack percentage, assists and digs.
Muno was not named to the All-Tournament team, however. Go figure. UCLA's Jordan Anderson was named the Most Outstanding Player, and sophomore Reily Buechler was an All-Tournament selection. Buechler led the UCLA attack in the final with 18 kills, and Anderson wasn't far behind with 15 kills.
Claire Felix continued her strong start to the season in Hawai'i. In the final, she tallied eight kills and six blocks while hitting .438. Haley Lawless enjoyed one of her finest games as a Bruin in the championship match. Her ten kills were a season-high and her seven blocks set a career-high. It's great to see Lawless finally enjoying some success after working so hard to come back from multiple injuries.
One of the reasons for the Bruins' recent success has been their commitment to defense. Libero Taylor Formico and defensive specialist Rachel Inouye both had a terrific tournament, with Formico picking up 16 digs in the final and Inouye adding 14.
The Bruins are in Santa Barbara this weekend for the Tournament at the Thunderdome. First up for the Bruins is #18 San Diego (5-1). The Toreros are a well-coached, defensive-minded team with victories against #23 Colorado and Oregon State already under their belt. USD's only loss came at the hands of #19 Florida State.
Senior opposite Canace Finley is the Torero's leader in attack. She's tall, blocks well, and is intelligent in attack. She's not a dominant attacker, though. USD tends to spread its attack, which is one of the reasons for the Toreros consistency. San Diego is a tough team to beat; the Toreros make their opponents grind.
This is a game that the Bruins should win. UCLA comes to the tournament with momentum and confidence. Coach Sealy deserves credit for getting the best from his team in Honolulu. If he can do it again this weekend, the Bruins should return to Westwood with another trophy.