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Oct. 28 was movie night for the UCLA women’s soccer team when coach Jillian Ellis surprised her players with a group outing to see “Secretariat,” a film about the underrated racehorse of the same name who eventually won the first Triple Crown in 25 years, thanks to the unwavering support of owner Penny Chenery.
Although the world of thoroughbreds, jockeys and gambling is miles away from the reality of the Bruins’ upcoming weekend games against Arizona and Arizona State, the movie’s inspirational message was not lost in translation.
“I loved it because it reminded me of the importance of self-belief,” said senior midfielder Kylie Wright. “The team pretty much felt the same way, and we were all pretty emotional afterwards. It was a really good movie to see because it really hit home for a lot of us.”
On the last leg of its regular season, UCLA (10-7-1, 3-4 Pac-10) hopes that a pair of wins this weekend will provide some much-needed reassurance before the playoffs begin.
“This weekend is super important because not only do we want to have two more wins, but it is also our last chance to increase our ranking for the (NCAA) Tournament,” Wright said. “These are our last couple of Pac-10 games, so everyone needs to be there mentally and physically. We have to show that we really want to win.”
After passing through Oregon last weekend, Arizona (5-11-2, 1-6) was shut out in consecutive games and returns to its home turf hungry for its second conference win. Arizona State (8-6-3, 2-4-1) fared no better than the Wildcats, losing 1-0 to Oregon State and 2-0 to Oregon.
The Bruins have only lost one game apiece against both Arizona teams, leading 15-1 all-time against the Wildcats and 12-1 overall against the Sun Devils. Despite UCLA’s past success against the two teams, consecutive victories are no guarantee.
With unexpected losses peppered throughout the season, this final regular-season road trip is a chance for UCLA to establish some stability heading into the postseason. The Bruins’ last weekend-series sweep was in late September and the team has yet to win consecutive conference games this year.
Although an inability to string together wins has plagued UCLA all season, Ellis said that her players have the technical ability to compete with the top teams in the nation. What the Bruins sometimes lack is mental endurance.
“Physically, the same players go out on the field every time, so really what it comes down to is the psychological aspect of the consistency,” Ellis said. “The most important thing is the players’ ability to bring the same level of intensity regardless of the opponent or what day it is.”
After their 2-0 win against Washington State, the Bruins’ focus on the field took a significant leap forward. After letting in five goals in the previous three games, the back line stayed sharp the entire match, posting the Bruins’ sixth shutout of the year and first since Oct. 8 against Cal.
“We need to stay strong,” said sophomore defender Lucretia Lee. “Defense is a huge part of the game, and we have to keep defending in order to win games and make sure not to break down in the back. We need to always be ready.”
After having snapped their three-game losing streak, the Bruins seem to have regained their stride as they approach the finish line of the regular season. With two wins this weekend, they may just be able to brush past the rest of the field by a nose.