Through the disappointment of its loss to California in the semifinals, a bright light shone for UCLA at the end of the SoCal Tournament ““ a long-awaited win over Southern California in the third-place game.
The triumph was a relief for the team, seeing as the last time UCLA beat USC, it was in 2009.
“It felt great,” redshirt junior goalkeeper Matt Rapacz said. “It’s been such a long time that they’ve beaten us, and we’ve come close every time … it was such a big burden on our shoulders.”
There were key differences in the game against USC that coach Adam Wright hopes to keep up.
“We played ‘SC tight. We stayed with them. In the past, we’ve had slow starts, and playing catch-up is hard to do,” he said.
The team took no new measures in their practice this week. The players have a routine, according to Wright, and they stick with it.
“Practice on a week-to-week basis is pretty similar,” Wright said. “We continue to grow on the things we’re trying to do and add in little tactics week by week.”
The team spent practice this week working on defense, which tends to be their primary focus. “Their offense,” said redshirt sophomore defenseman Chris Wendt, “usually figures itself out.”
The practice this week was cut short not only by Friday night’s game against the Cal Golden Bears but also by a day off on Monday after the tournament, said Wright.
According to Wendt, though a short week is difficult, “We know what we need to do.”
In addition to its evening practices, the team also spent time on Tuesday watching game film in order to prepare for this weekend.
Aside from playing the Bears on Friday, the team will also face the UC Irvine Anteaters Sunday afternoon.
After last weekend’s win over USC, Wright repeated that he was most impressed with the team’s character.
“They showed their desire to keep winning, and showed their ability to regroup after a loss and do what they needed to do to win,” Wright said.
According to Wendt, the win has been a long time coming.
“They were ripe for the picking this whole time, but we finally put together a good enough game to beat them. We should be able to keep doing this,” Wendt said.
Wright, along with many of the players, have repeatedly stated that the main strength of this year’s squad is its ability to come together as a group. Practice was never silent: The players were bantering and cheering each other on, and correcting one another’s mistakes.
Wright is constantly saying that the team is not on any one player’s shoulders ““ every single member of the team is ready to contribute at any moment. It was this factor that tipped the scales in their favor against the Trojans.
“The team played really well together,” Rapacz said. “Everyone sacrificed for each other.”