Junior midfielder Chelsea Cline charged up the right side of the field, headed toward the goal, looking alertly for an open pass.
A defender made contact with Cline looking to wrestle away the ball but instead, the whistle blew.
Foul Washington. UCLA received a direct kick a few feet away from the Huskies’ 18 yard box.
Compared to some of the other opportunities the Bruins had earlier in the game, this kick seemed harmless, destined to be quickly cleared out of danger by the Huskies.
Instead, sophomore Chelsea Stewart’s well-aimed shot slipped past several Washington defenders into the left side of the goal, giving UCLA a 1-0 lead in the 79th minute of Friday’s game.
“I was just trying to get it back post,” Stewart said. “For me, I was just trying to find someone on the team and put it on the frame as an “˜in-case.’ I guess the “˜in-case’ worked for us today.”
Playing in their conference opener, it was clear from the beginning that the Bruins were the better team. UCLA dominated offensive play, allowing Washington only one shot and racking up 14 corner kick opportunities.
Several times in the first half, the ball bounced among competing players within inches from the goal, only to be eventually batted out by the Huskies’ goalkeeper.
“It was a relief for sure,” Stewart said about scoring. “When you get to those last few minutes in the game, you want to get that last goal. Tension builds and you are starting feel a lot of nerves. Putting that one goal in relaxed our team. “
But there was never any doubt in Cline’s mind that the Bruins would be able put the ball in the back of the net to secure the win.
“We outshot them by some crazy number, so with that kind of shooting percentage, it’s only a matter of time until things are going to fall our way,” Cline said.
UCLA outshot Washington 16-1 and confidently dominated possession. Usually whenever the Huskies crossed the half line into Bruin territory, they would lose the ball to an aggressive defender within minutes.
“I was pleased with the 90-minute performance, probably for the first time this year,” coach B.J. Snow said. “The thing I was most proud about was our defensive mentality throughout the game. This is by far our best defensive effort collectively.
“It’s tough when you let a good team like Washington in the game for so long, they are bound to get a scoring opportunity but we did a good job of eliminating that today.”
Anchored by freshmen Abby Dahlkemper and Megan Oyster, the defense has demonstrated unexpected maturity throughout the season, earning five shutouts in nine games.
The No. 2 Bruins (8-0-1, 1-0 Pac-12) remain undefeated, extending their winning streak to eight.
Despite their success, Snow is determined not to let his team feel too comfortable especially since conference play has now begun.
“We go back to work on Monday because we have tough opponents ahead,” he said. “At this point in time, if we are not getting better then we are getting worse.”