UCLA Men's Soccer
Opponent: #6 Maryland (1-0-1)
When: 4:00 PM PDT, Friday, September 4, 2015
Where: Ludwig Field, College Park, MD
Audio: WMUC Sports
Video: Big Ten Network
Live Stats: Maryland Live Stats
As UCLA Football completes final preparations for their first test of the season against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Rose Bowl tomorrow, UCLA men's soccer will take the field in College Park to defend its #1 national ranking against the sixth-ranked Maryland Terps. The Bruins will finish their east coast road trip on Monday against #12 Georgetown.
UCLA had a similar early-season east coast road in 2014. The then top-ranked Bruins opened the season with a solid 3-1 win over #11 Walke Forest before edging #10 North Carolina 1-0 two days later. These are the kinds of opponents that will strengthen Coach Salcedo's squad and battle-ready the Bruins for a challenging Pac-12 title race and an NCAA tournament run.
UCLA (1-0-0) enters the match following a 1-0 victory over New Mexico on Saturday. The winning goal came from freshman Malcolm Jones, while the UCLA defense and new Bruin starting goalkeeper Juan Cervantes began the season with a solid performance and a clean sheet. On the other hand, including a pair of exhibition games, UCLA's forwards have tallied just a single goal so far in 2015. For the Bruins to enjoy a successful road trip, the Bruins' strike force must find the back of the net this weekend.
Maryland (1-0-1) returns home after participating in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic last week. The Terps held the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish to a scoreless draw, and then thumped St John's 4-0. Maryland has been led in the early going by a pair of freshman--forward Sebastian Elney and midfielder Amar Sejidic--and sophomore midfielder Jake Areman. Freshman midfielder Eryk Williamson has also been very active going forward. However, the real strength of the Maryland's midfield is the pair of seniors: Mael Corboz and Tsubasa Endoh. Corboz was First Team All-Big Ten in 2014, and Endoh has been selected as a Big Ten Conference Player to Watch.
Maryland uses a goalkeeper rotation, and so far it has worked just fine, with Maryland yet to concede a goal and a clean sheet for each goalkeeper in 2015.
Today's match will be a terrific test for the Bruins. Unlike the women's team, Coach Salcedo's team is loaded with experience as well as talent, so for UCLA men's soccer, outcomes are as important as performances, even early in the season. In my opinion, the Bruins deserve their #1 ranking--today they get a chance to prove it.
UCLA Women's Soccer
Opponent: #1 Virginia (3-0-0)
When: 7:00 PM PDT, Friday, September 4, 2015
Where: Drake Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Audio
Live Stats: UCLA Live Stats
An hour or so after the UCLA Men's Soccer team wraps up its game against Maryland, the UCLA Women's Soccer team hosts Virginia, the top-ranked team in the country. Those who follow women's soccer know that there is important recent history between the Bruins and Cavaliers. Last year,Virginia defeated UCLA in the NCAA quarterfinals to end the Bruins' season and snap their unbeaten streak of 44 games. The year before, UCLA knocked Virginia out of the NCAA Tournament in the semifinals in a penalty shootout.
Although the UCLA Athletic Department seems anxious to play up today's game as a grudge match, the 2015 edition of the Bruins features just two starters from the 2014 team. For the Bruins, this match should be viewed as an opportunity to gauge the progress of Coach Cromwell's rebuilding project. Consequently, what matters most today for UCLA is the quality of the performance, not the final score. If the 2015 Bruins are going to contend for the Pac-12 title, they need games against elite competition. And as my high school basketball coach always preached, "you learn more from defeat than victory, so don't fear defeat--learn from it, grow and improve."
Although the Bruins are inexperienced at the back, they produced solid defensive performances so far. However, heading into the Wisconsin game last week, the Bruins had lacked a creative spark in midfield, so Coach Cromwell moved forward Kodi Lavrusky into a midfield playmaker role, and UCLA responded with a pair of goals and out-shot the Badgers 18-7. It will be interesting to see if Coach Cromwell sticks with the more offensive-minded setup against the Cavaliers or reverts to a more defensive midfield.
Virginia (3-0-0) is an offensive powerhouse. In just three games, the Cavaliers have found the back of the net 16 times. The Cavaliers are also stout defensively; Virginia finally conceded a goal in their most recent game, but the Cavaliers still trounced Delaware 6-1.
Virginia has numerous scoring threats. In fact, ten different players have already scored for the Cavaliers this season. Junior midfielder Meghan Cox leads all scorers with three goals in 2015, but the players that deserves the most attention from the Bruins are senior forward Makenzy Doniak and junior forward Morgan Reuther. As the Bruins know from firsthand experience, Doniak is a handful--she tallied an impressive 20 goals last season, and she's already contributed a goal and three assists this season.
Let me emphasize again that what matters for the Bruins today is the quality of the performance, not the final score. I have great confidence in Coach Cromwell and her ability to quickly develop this year's inexperienced team into a Pac-12 contender and a national top-10 team. We'll have a better idea of how far along Coach Cromwell is in rebuilding the Bruins after today's match.
UCLA Women's Volleyball
Opponent: American (3-1)
When: 7:30 PM PDT, Friday, September 4, 2015
Where: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, HI
Live Stats: Hawai'i StatBroadcast
The Bruins (1-1) are in Honolulu this weekend for the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic. UCLA opened the 2015 campaign last weekend with a good win (3-0) over Virginia, and followed that up with a stinker against Loyola Marymount. In fact, it was the second consecutive year in which the Bruins were swept (and embarrassed) by LMU. A friend who attended the game described the Bruins' performance as "painful to watch." Obviously, that's not a good way to start a season.
The Bruins don't seem to have mentally-adjusted to the loss of Karsta Lowe. Last season, the Bruins could rely on Lowe to carry the offensive load, so even though that made UCLA predictable in attack, it could be quite effective at times. Without Lowe, the Bruins need to become more effectively multi-dimensional in attack, and that starts in the middle. Against Virginia, UCLA had a balanced attack and scored frequently through middle blockers Claire Felix and Jennie Frager. Against LMU, the vast majority of sets were delivered to the outside, and UCLA's hitting percentage headed south. If that trend continues, the Bruins will have a very long, uncomfortable season.
American University (3-1) shouldn't be underestimated. Their sole defeat came against #4 Florida State, and they were competitive in that loss. The Eagles are led by a solid group of seniors, including attackers Sarah Katz, Kristyna Lindovska, and Allison Cappellino. Senior setter Monika Smidova is a smart, veteran performer who does a good job of spreading the point of attack. The Bruins will need to lift the level of their defensive performance to keep the Eagles in check today.
I'm not going to rehash my concerns about Coach Sealy's starting lineup choices and his game tactics. Ultimately he has to find player combinations that work and tactics that get the best out of the players he puts on the court. Let's hope that he starts to solve that puzzle this weekend. There isn't a lot of time before the start of the Pac-12 season, and the schedule gets a lot harder at that point.