It was a good week for UCLA Women's Soccer. The Bruins beat #19 Pepperdine last week, and in the process, managed to square their season record at 4-4. The victory wasn't enough to bump the Bruins back into the NSCAA Coaches poll top-25, but it's progress. Given UCLA's stumbling start to the season, any forward steps--even small steps--are important.
FINAL: UCLA 1, Pepperdine 0. Annie Alvarado scored the game-winner in the 90th minute to beat the 19th-ranked Waves. pic.twitter.com/EakhCn4NV9
— UCLA Women's Soccer (@UCLAWSoccer) September 18, 2015
Although the Bruins squeaked past Pepperdine 1-0 on a 90th minute penalty kick by Annie Alvarado, there were a lot of encouraging signs for the Bruins.
Redshirt freshman Arielle Schechtman kept a clean sheet in her first collegiate start. Amazingly, though, Schechtman wasn't required to make any saves--her defense did a terrific job of stifling Pepperdine's attack. Although the Bruins played without star forward Taylor Smith, UCLA out-shot Pepperdine 13-3.
Nevertheless, the game was scoreless until the 68th minute when MacKenzie Cerda was fouled in the box. However, when Lauren Kaskie's penalty kick was saved by the Waves' 'keeper, and when four minutes later, Kodi Lavrusky's shot caromed off the left post, it looked like a scoreless draw would be the likely outcome of the match.
But in the final minute of the contest, midfielder Kristiana Konkol-Mroczkowski was tripped in the box, and UCLA was awarded another penalty kick. This time Annie Alvarado stepped up and laced the ball into the back of the net to give UCLA an incredibly important 1-0 win.
As you can see in the highlights, the Bruins looked much better organized against Pepperdine, and as always, the work rate was impressive.
UCLA opens Pac-12 play this week with a home match against Oregon on Friday night. The Bruins may not be quite where they hoped to be heading into the conference season, but Coach Cromwell has this team going in the right direction.
I'd hoped to be able to write a glowing review of the Bruins performances this past week. Instead I have to stick to reality. However, there's good news to go with the bad.
The good news is that UCLA's strikers have regained their scoring touch, and the Bruins goal scoring showed dramatic improvement last weekend. UCLA scored 6 goals in two games, with four of those goals coming from the Bruins' strikers.
The bad news is UCLA's defense. It entered the weekend allowing an atrocious 1.75 goals per game on average. But the UCLA defense leaked another 6 goals over the weekend, raising its GAA to an average of 2 goals per game. Good teams don't concede two goals a game.
UCLA started the weekend with a good half of soccer against Cal Poly. The Mustangs took the lead in the 32 minute. A free kick outside the box was chipped over the UCLA wall, and the Bruins simply couldn't clear the ball, resulting in a scramble in front of goal, and the ball eventually trickling into the net.
The Bruins came out after halftime and put together 45 minutes of decent soccer. Michael Amick knocked home the equalizer five minutes after the restart thanks to some slick passing by freshmen Jose Hernandez and Jackson Yueill.
Less than three minutes later, the Bruins took the lead when Jackson Yueill rocketed the ball into the Mustangs' goal.
The Bruins didn't stop there. Seyi Adekoya scored a brace to finish off the Mustangs. The first was set up by Abu Danladi and Jackson Yueill, with both earning their second assist of the match. Adekoya scored again when he outpaced several defenders and slotted his shot past the goalkeeper.
GOOOAAAALL!!! Adekoya again!! The sophomore gets in alone & shows patience to get around the keeper and score, 4-1. pic.twitter.com/meqIe9nwjP
— UCLA Men's Soccer (@UCLAMSoccer) September 19, 2015
UCLA's 4-1 victory over Cal Poly offered a glimpse at the potential of the Bruins. Goalkeeper Juan Cervantes wasn't troubled for most of the game; he was forced into just one save over the course of 90 minutes.
Here's what Coach Salcedo said following the win against the Mustangs (emphasis added):
"You learn in the game of soccer that you can't get too high or too low. Obviously, losing three matches in-a-row was never what we planned or hoped for, but tonight was a good first step towards us becoming a good team. The second half showed glimpses of quality that, hopefully, we can continue to build on and take into our match on Monday against UC Santa Barbara."
As it turned out, Coach Salcedo needed to rely on more than hope to get a good result against Santa Barbara.
Let me start by acknowledging that the Gauchos are a very good team. That said, like the Bruins, they were unranked coming into the contest. But UCSB looked stronger, more aggressive, and far better organized than UCLA from the opening whistle. The Bruins were out-muscled, out-hustled, out-shot and out-scored by the Gauchos.
Considering how fragile the UCLA defense has been this season, it's a little surprising to me that Coach Salcedo hasn't made any system or personnel changes.
Coach Salcedo may have felt that the match was heading in the right direction when Larry Ndjock was fouled in the box and converted his penalty kick.
The Bruins 1-0 lead didn't last long, though, as UCSB knocked in the equalizer nine minutes later. The score remained knotted at one at halftime with the Gauchos leading the Bruins in shots, 5-3.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half, UCSB cracked a shot from distance past Cervantes and the Gauchos took a lead that they wouldn't surrender. And after another eight minutes, the UCSB lead had ballooned to 4-1, with the Gauchos scoring their fourth on a counterattack.
The Bruins got one back in the 79th minute when Adekoya tallied his third goal of the weekend.
Unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and the Bruins dropped to 2-4 with just two games remaining before the Pac-12 season begins.
It's very hard to be optimistic about the 2015 season at this point. UCLA has some very talented players--after all, there's a reason that the Bruins were ranked #1 at the start of the season--but the team isn't getting the job done on the pitch, particularly in the defensive end. This is a problem that plagued the Bruins last season as well, so it's up to Coach Salcedo to find a solution to the problem.There's simply no excuse for such a talented, experienced team to be leaking goals at such an alarming rate.
Men's Water Polo
It's starting to become an annual ritual for the Bruins to head up to Palo Alto in late September and return home as NorCal Tournament Champions. For the third year running, UCLA has won the NorCal Tournament title, and in the process beat two of the nation's top-4 teams.
James Robinson & Spencer Farrar each score 5 goals as UCLA opens defense of NorCal title with 24-3 win over Chapman! pic.twitter.com/uLAAuj6oXw
— UCLA Water Polo (@UCLAWaterPolo) September 19, 2015
The Bruins started their NorCal title defense with an opening game against Chapman. With the UCLA starters taking the morning off, the Bruins' reserves thumped Chapman 24-3. Freshman Alex Wolf started between the posts for the Bruins and recorded 10 saves in his first start.
Freshman Spencer Farrar led UCLA with five goals. Junior Ryder Roberts and sophomore James Robinson registered four goals each, and freshman Max Staresinic scored a hat trick. A pair of Bruins--junior Alec Zwaneveld and redshirt freshman Austin Rone--each scored a brace.
The win over Chapman advanced UCLA to a quarterfinals match against #9 Pepperdine.
As expected, the Waves provided a much tougher test for the Bruins. All-American Garrett Danner was back in goal for UCLA through the first three quarters, during which the Bruins built a 9-3 lead. Freshman Alex Wolf closed out the game in goal, as the Bruins won comfortably 12-6.
Junior Chancellor Ramirez was one of four Bruins to score a brace. He was joined by Roberts, and juniors Patrick Fellner and Gordon Marshall in scoring a pair of goals.
UCLA was back in the pool on Sunday morning for a semifinal match against the fourth-seeded California Golden Bears.
Patrick Fellner with the hat trick as UCLA defeats Cal 8-6. Bruins set to defend NorCal title vs. USC or Stanford. pic.twitter.com/4Q0wOz5C2Y
— UCLA Water Polo (@UCLAWaterPolo) September 20, 2015
UCLA took a 4-1 lead into halftime against Cal, but the Golden Bears fought back to tie the score at 5 midway through the third quarter. The Bruins responded with a pair of goals to head into the final frame with a 7-5 lead.
Cal closed the gap to one with a goal with just under 6 minutes left in the contest, but the Bruins quickly responded again to push their lead back to two. Garrett Danner and UCLA's defense did the rest to lock up an 8-6 victory and an appearance in the title game.
Danner collected 13 saves to keep Cal in check. Although UCLA struggled to convert power play chances (3 of 12), the Bruins' defense was outstanding. Patrick Fellner led all scorers with a hat trick.
The tournament finale featured a showdown between the Bruins and the third-seeded Cardinal. Stanford advanced to the title game by knocking off Southern Cal in the other quarterfinal.
Stanford notched the opening goal of the final, but UCLA hit back three times to take a 3-1 lead into the second quarter. The Cardinal tied the score with three minutes remaining in the second, but again the Bruins struck back, with senior Anthony Daboub scoring from the front court to give UCLA a 4-3 lead at the break.
The trend continued in the third. UCLA opened with a pair of goals only to have Stanford score three straight to knot the contest at 6-all. However Ryder Roberts scored a goal in the final minute of the third to put the Bruins back in front.
Heading into the final frame at 7-6, the first goal of the fourth would prove to be decisive. Chancellor Ramirez found the back of the cage on a power play for the Bruins to extend the lead to 8-6 with under 5 minutes remaining. UCLA's defense tightened, and although Stanford scored to narrow the UCLA lead to a single goal, the Bruins managed to shut down Stanford the rest of the way.
Ryder Roberts and sophomore Alex Roelse led the Bruins with two goals apiece. Garrett Danner registered seven saves to earn the win. And most importantly, the victory sealed another NorCal tournament championship for UCLA.
Finally, in recognition of his outstanding performance at the NorCal tournament, Garrett Danner was named the MPSF Player of the Week!
The #1 Bruins are now 9-0 to start the season, and they'll be back in the pool at Spieker Aquatics Center for a tripleheader on Saturday as they continue their NCAA title defense.
UCLA's winning streak now stands at eight games after another weekend sweep. The Bruins took part in a rare morning/evening doubleheader in the LBSU/UCI Mizuno Invitational on Friday. The Bruins started the day with a contest against UC Irvine.
Although the Anteaters proved tougher than expected, the Bruins earned a sweep, 25-23, 25-17, 25-21. Jordan Anderson led UCLA with a season-best 21 kills, and the Bruins hit .317 for the match.
Unfortunately, the UCLA defense didn't play to the standard on which its winning streak has been based. In spite of being swept, the Anteaters out-hit the Bruins, .337 to .317, but UCLA relied on a slew of errors by UCI to pull away.
UCLA looked a bit stronger in their evening match against Long Beach State. The Bruins opened well with a 25-20 first set victory, but then slumped in the second set to a 19-25 loss that let the 49ers back into the match. But UCLA turned it on at that point, blitzing the 49ers in the final two sets, 25-17 and 25-14.
Once again, Jordan Anderson paced the Bruins with 16 kills. Haley Lawless once again played well, adding 15 kills and doing a good job at setting the block. Reilly Buechler added a dozen kills and nine digs.
The UCLA defense was much sharper against Long Beach State. The Bruins held LBSU to a .125 attack percentage, less than half of UCLA's hitting percentage. Zana Muno led the Bruins with 17 assists, and Taylor Formico chipped in with an even dozen.
The Bruins finish the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 9-1 mark. UCLA opens Pac-12 play this week with a match against #3 Southern Cal on Wednesday. USC will be the Bruins' first top-10 opponent of the season, so we'll learn a lot more about Coach Sealy's team this week.
This Week In UCLA Sports
Wednesday, September 23
- UCLA Women's Volleyball vs. Southern Cal at Pauley Pavilion (7:30 PM PT)
Friday, September 25
- UCLA Men's Soccer vs. VCU at Drake Stadium (4:30 PM PT)
- UCLA Women's Soccer vs. Oregon at Drake Stadium (8:00 PM PT)
Saturday, September 26
- UCLA Men's Water Polo vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Spieker Aquatics Center (11:00 AM PT)
- UCLA Men's Water Polo vs. Chapman at Spieker Aquatics Center (1:00 PM PT)
- UCLA Football vs. Arizona in Tucson, AZ (5:00 PM PT)
Sunday, September 27
- UCLA Women's Volleyball vs. California in Berkeley, CA (12:00 PM PT)
- UCLA Men's Soccer vs. UC Irvine at Drake Stadium (7:00 PM PT)
That's the UCLA Olympic sports roundup for the week.