UCLA Women's Volleyball
Opponent: California (6-6, 0-1)
When: 12:00 PM PT, Sunday, September 27, 2015
Where: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
Video: Pac-12 Networks Live
Live Stats: California Golden Bears Live Stats
The 13th-ranked Bruins entered Wednesday's Pac-12 opener against #3 Southern Cal sporting an eight-game winning streak. Less than an hour and a half later, the winning streak had been erased along with any thought that UCLA might be ready to compete for the 2015 Pac-12 title.
The Trojans have an excellent team this season, and they are well-deserving of their top-5 national ranking. On the other hand, although the Bruins had made a strong run through the non-conference portion of their schedule, they didn't face a top-10 team, and in some of their performances, there was evidence of the lingering bad habits and lack of consistent mental toughness that had led to uneven displays last season. That's not to say that UCLA hadn't earned its #13 ranking, but there was plenty of reason to doubt that they could keep up with the best teams in the conference.
My disappointment about Wednesday's result isn't simply based on my frustration with losing to USC, or losing our winning streak; rather, it's based on the fact that we weren't competitive, We didn't just lose--we were swept. And we weren't just swept--we were embarrassed.
Only the first set, which we lost 25-22, could be called "close." The second set (25-12) was a blowout, and the final set (25-19) was won comfortably by the Trojans. In my opinion, a 13th-ranked team playing at home shouldn't go down so easily.
The match stats paint a grim picture. Only one Bruin--Claire Felix--managed a hitting percentage as high as .200. As a team, UCLA hit just .056, with nearly as many hitting errors (21) as kills. After carefully studying the box score, I can't find a single UCLA player that deserves recognition for an outstanding performance.
The Bruins need to put Wednesday's bad loss behind them and focus on playing the high intensity defense that characterized the best of their early season performances. Cal (6-6, 0-1) should be a remedy for what ailed the Bruins against SC. Today's match should mark the beginning of a new winning streak.
Although the Pac-12 should never set up the schedule this way, UCLA will play Cal just once this season. And because of the oddity of the Bruins' schedule, this game is the second part of a strange home game/road game week. UCLA can't let the unusual travel schedule distract them from the task at hand: returning home with a victory over a clearly inferior team.
UCLA Men's Soccer
Opponent: UC Irvine (2-4-2)
When: 7:00 PM PT, Sunday, September 27, 2015
Where: Drake Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
There was good reason for Bruins fans to be nervous after the first ten minutes of UCLA's match against VCU on Friday. The Rams took advantage of poor defending and an error by UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes to take an unexpected lead in the sixth minute.
However the Bruins grew into the game and dominated possession for the remainder of the half. UCLA finally scored the equalizer just seconds before the half-hour mark when Seyi Adekoya's individual brilliance allowed him to slip his shot past the VCU 'keeper.
The second half followed a similar pattern, with most of the action in the VCU half. The Rams were constantly forced to defend deep, resulting in a lot of possession for the Bruins but only a handful of chances.
UCLA finally broke the deadlock when a beautifully-weighted through ball from Jose Hernandez was collected by Larry Ndjock as he broke free towards the goal. Ndjock just managed to poke the ball past the goalkeeper before being brought down. Ndjock converted the resulting penalty to put the Bruins ahead, 2-1.
UCLA's defensive frailty was exposed not long after when the defense needed to clear from the line a header looped over Cervantes. However, the clearance went straight to a Ram, and the Bruins were very lucky indeed to see his blast sail wide of goal.
That was the last sign of a real threat on UCLA's goal, though, and the Bruins (3-4-0) earned a much-needed victory. A win against UC Irvine today would square the Bruins' record heading into Pac-12 play, and restore a sense of self-belief to Coach Salcedo's undeniably talented squad.
The Anteaters are not a strong side, but they enter today's match following their best performance of the season--a 4-1 victory against LMU. Considering the fact that UCI had scored just three goals total in its first 7 contests, their four-goal, 24 shot explosion against Loyola Marymount shows that the Anteaters are not strictly a 10-men-behind-the-ball team.
I suspect that UCLA will have trouble breaking down UCI tonight. The key for the Bruins will be to press high in the hope of quick counterattacks launched by turning over the Anteaters. Adekoya, Danladi, and Ndjock are all very dangerous up front; given a bit of space, each of them are capable of producing a bit of magic.
Defensively, the Bruins looked stronger with Erik Holt manning the role of defensive midfielder, but it's unclear if the injury he suffered against VCU will keep him off the pitch today. Also, freshman Jose Hernandez was involved in nearly every effective attacking move for the Bruins, so Coach Salcedo should consider playing him in an advanced, central midfield role.
Tonight's contest is a game that the Bruins can't afford to lose if they are going to contend for a national title. Anything less than a solid win will be problematic as UCLA heads into Pac-12 play next week.