Thursday, April 25

Women’s soccer takes 6-game winning streak on the road

Women's soccer focus on offensive possession and substitutions with hope to continue wins

Senior foward Kristina Larsen dodges a slide tackle during the Bruins' 5-0 win in a physical match against Missouri State in the UCLA Women's Cup.

Senior foward Kristina Larsen dodges a slide tackle during the Bruins' 5-0 win in a physical match against Missouri State in the UCLA Women's Cup. Michael Chen

Albeit brief, the recent three-game home stand seems to have done wonders for the UCLA women’s soccer team. Winners of six consecutive games, the No. 3 Bruins (6-1-1) will take their streak on the road this weekend, facing off against Cal State Northridge today at 4 p.m. before traveling north to play UC Santa Barbara on Sunday, also at 4 p.m.

“Any local opponent can be difficult to play,” coach Jillian Ellis said. “A bulk of their recruits is Southern California players with tremendous talent, so we know that going into Northridge, we all have to play well and be focused … and Santa Barbara historically has always had a competitive team.”

But between recuperating from Sunday’s physical match against Missouri and packing their bags, the Bruins have been fine-tuning their game as well, starting with emphasizing the need to continue the momentum.

“Now that we’re having a good streak and scoring a lot of goals, we just have to come out confident … and ready to show everybody what UCLA is all about,” freshman midfielder Zakiya Bywaters said. “And since we’re already a top dog, (every opponent) is coming after us, so we just have to play on our toes and play hard.”

In terms of actual game play and tactics, a decrease in turnovers has been the theme during practice over the course of the week.

“Possession is key, because once we keep the ball up, we can play really well with it,” senior forward Kristina Larsen said. “If we just keep possession, our rhythm becomes better, we attack more and score some goals.”

UCLA is also increasing playing time for the bench players. In its previous game alone, UCLA sent out 11 substitutes to give the starters a breather.

“A part of (our strategy) is to give some of our other players opportunities to play, because they’re hungry to prove themselves,” Ellis said. “And I think I’m going to continue the substitution patterns that we’ve been having, because these players coming off the bench are giving us a lift.”

As for the opponents, Cal State Northridge is coming off a 1-0 victory over Hawai’i to bump its record to 4-5 on the season. This will be the first time the two teams meet since 2007, when the Bruins defeated the Matadors 3-1 at Northridge.

UCSB, 3-4-1 on the season, heads into the weekend having won 2-0 against Cal State Bakersfield Sept. 17 and set to play Arizona today. The Bruins squeaked by the Gauchos 2-1 at home in the head-to-head matchup last season. Yet despite UCLA’s superior record to that of either school, the Bruins prepares to play with poise and hunger. “We take every game as if we were playing for the national championships,” Larsen said.

“Yeah, (every opponent) may not be like a North Carolina team, but we have to look at it (as if they were), because every game will prepare us for where we want to be.”

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