Inconsistency has been an issue that has plagued the UCLA women’s soccer team in the early months of its season. With the Bruins unable to string together two solid performances within days of each other, that same word came back to haunt the team this weekend at the Omni Hotels Colorado Women’s Soccer Classic in Boulder, Colo.
After a dominant 4-2 win against Denver (5-2) on Friday, No. 10 UCLA (5-2-1) faced Colorado (4-4) on Sunday afternoon, hoping to leave the tournament undefeated. Instead, the Bruins were forced to settle for a split, losing 1-0 to the Buffs in the 108th minute of overtime.
Efficient teamwork helped the Bruins cruise to victory on Friday, with four different players scoring goals against the Pioneers. Junior forward Sydney Leroux sent the first ball flying into the goal during the 24th minute on an assist from freshman midfielder Jenna Richmond.
“The fact that four different players can score makes us a harder team to shut down, and they can’t just focus on one player,” coach Jillian Ellis said. “I was pleased we were able to score four goals because it’s good for our confidence to be able to hit the back of the net.”
Leading 2-0 by halftime, UCLA increased its lead to 4-0 over Denver after scoring a goal in the 65th and then again in the 67th minute. However, the two second-half goals were equalized almost as quickly as they were earned, with the Pioneers scoring twice in the last 20 minutes of the match.
“It’s about mental sharpness,” Ellis said. “We have got to be able to call it our game and keep our focus. We can’t play to the score because I think we got too comfortable at 4-0.”
Playing at an altitude of close to 5,430 feet for 90 minutes, the Bruins may have struggled defensively with fatigue during the last part of the game. With the defense faltering, the absence of senior defender Lauren Barnes was especially noticeable. Barnes did not play on Friday after sustaining an injury to her left eye in last Sunday’s game, but she returned to play against Colorado.
Despite a supportive defensive line against the Buffs, the Bruins foundered offensively on Sunday and were unable to capitalize on numerous golden opportunities to score: two distinct breakaways, a shot that hit the cross bar instead of the top of the net and two close-range shots inside eight yards were just some of the missed chances Ellis listed.
With a similar number of shots on goal in both matches, failure to execute distinguished Sunday’s loss from Friday’s victory.
“We created chances, but we didn’t finish them,” Ellis said. “The game is different if you finish those chances. I think we could have gotten more out of our players and offensively created even more opportunities. However, at the end of the day, it’s all about execution and that was our problem.”
Barnes in, Lee out
Although Barnes made her return from an eye injury, missing from Sunday’s lineup was sophomore defender Lucretia Lee, who was injured prior to the start of the game and replaced by freshman midfielder Chelsea Braun.