San Diego 0
Santa Clara 0
With the minutes ticking by, the referee’s whistle blew in increasingly quick succession as the No. 11 UCLA women’s soccer team and No. 10 Santa Clara aggressively fought for ball possession. Despite a relatively tame first half, fouls and falls were abundant in the last part of the match as the Bruins (7-2-1) fought to maintain their 1-0 lead against a determined Broncos team (7-2-2).
After a grueling 90 minutes in sweltering heat, UCLA emerged victorious to complete a weekend sweep at Drake Stadium for the first time this season. The Bruins kicked off their five-game home stand against San Diego on Friday, winning 2-0 on a pair of second-half goals in the 77th and 86th minutes.
With both teams scoreless throughout the first half, senior defender Lauren Barnes gave the Bruins the lead with an unassisted goal off a free kick outside the box. Freshman midfielder Chelsea Braun scored the first goal of her collegiate career in the 86th minute off a cross from senior midfielder and Daily Bruin photographer Dana Wall.
“Free kicks are always big for us,” Barnes said of her goal. “Especially in a match like this, they are often the game-breaker. I had been practicing them all week, so I just had to execute.”
With junior forward and top-scorer Sydney Leroux gone after being called up to the full U.S. Women’s National Team, freshman midfielder Jenna Richmond moved up to the frontline, playing as a forward Friday and Sunday for the first time this season.
“(Richmond) is a sophisticated player no matter where you stick her,” coach Jill Ellis said. “She hasn’t played there in a while, so I was impressed. She is good on the ball, and her chemistry with (sophomore forward Zakiya Bywaters) was excellent.”
Although the Bruins competed without Leroux for the first time this season, her presence was not completely absent. After receiving a breakaway ball from Richmond, senior forward Iman Bearde dribbled past the charging goalkeeper toward an open net, softly placing the ball into the goal with a short pass in the 32nd minute. Bearde attributed her game-winning goal to Leroux, who often uses a similar tactic in practice.
Coming into the game as a substitute, Bearde was one of many players off the bench who was a crucial component of the Bruins’ weekend sweep. Throughout both matches, Ellis was continually cycling the starters with substitutes in order to counter fatigue and high temperatures.
“Subs are important in every game, and especially in matches where we really need a win,” Bearde said. “The people on the bench cheer us on, which gets the people on the field pumped. They just give us a new kick on the field.”
Having fresh legs throughout the game was especially important for UCLA against a rough Santa Clara team. However, the Broncos’ aggressiveness didn’t surprise Ellis, who expected this level of physical play from a highly ranked team.
“This is going to be mild in comparison once we get into conference,” Ellis said of the intensity of the match. “We have to be prepared to mix it up physically and give as good as we get sometimes.”
With several more two-game weekends still to come this season, Ellis hopes that winning consecutive matches Friday and Sunday sets an example for the Bruins.
“For us, the big step forward was putting two games together in a weekend,” she said. “That is the big accomplishment (for the team) and it builds confidence.”