In the early going this season, The No. 4 UCLA women’s soccer team (5-0-1) is playing out like a series of Dan Brown novels: same characters, different bad guy, but the same themes and the same basic story.
It was the same again tonight, as the Bruins took out SMU (3-3-0) 1-0. The speedy UCLA women played solid soccer yet struggled to score, but found enough net to come out with a win anyway.
Despite UCLA’s inability to convert on the scoring chances they create, however, coach B.J. Snow did not express great consternation over the lack of finishing in the early going.
“That seems to be everyone else’s concern besides mine. It doesn’t seem to be ours. […] eventually, some of them are going to start falling, andif we weren’t creating opportunities then we’d have something to worry about. At this point in time, we’re winning games, we’re playing good soccer, we’re creating chances, and that’s ultimately what we’re concerned with,” Snow said.
The lone goal came in the in the 10th minute, star forward and senior Sydney Leroux sending the ball past a diving Courtney Webb, SMU’s senior goalkeeper. At that point, with the pitch tilted firmly in the Bruins favor, it appeared that UCLA would find the breathing room it hadn’t up to that point.
After that moment, however, SMU found some fight and tightened up the field. From then on, UCLA struggled to find space in the SMU backline, as the Mustangs were content to sit back on the Bruins.
Despite a heavy advantage in shots (UCLA 13, SMU 1), corners (UCLA 7, SMU 1), and possession, a cramped Mustang box stifled the Bruin attack.
Leroux was mostly willing to write off some of the sloppiness and ineffectiveness to youth and early season jitters. “We’re still trying to figure out what we want to do, and it’s still a learning process for everyone. We don’t expect to be at our top right now.”
That makes sense, considering the Bruins not only play but start several freshmen from their stellar incoming class. If youth were ever a possible excuse, it would be now. The Bruins, however, despite featuring a new cast of characters, are undefeated so far and looking strong with many freshmen delivering solid performances.
Sam Mewis is one of those freshmen, anchoring the Bruin midfield as a regular in the starting lineup and a constant in the thick of the action. She and her fellow classmates figure to continue getting heavy playing time. Leroux and Snow have confidence in the young rookies, and early season results bearing that out.
And as long as the script keeps playing the same way, well, Mewis put it best. “We pulled out the win as we’ve been doing the past couple of games. So, we’re happy.”