Last weekend, the No. 5 UCLA women’s soccer team faced its toughest challenge thus far in Cal and No. 1 Stanford.
The Bruins emerged considerably shaken after tying the Bears and getting blown out by the Cardinal.
After an outstanding start to the season, a weekend like that might seem like a prime opportunity for the morale of the Bruins (10-1-2, 3-1-1 Pac-12) to suffer going forward, especially as a young team with only half a season’s worth of college experience.
According to coach B.J. Snow, that can’t and won’t happen.
“We can’t use that as a point to get down on ourselves, certainly; it’s just a measuring stick,” Snow said. “This was a perfect opportunity to measure where we’re at in the season and move forward. And that’s it.”
Snow has to be right, because life in the Pac-12 is not easy. There are no off weeks, no cupcake matchups. This weekend will be as much a break as the Bruins will get all season, with only one game on the docket.
That one game, however, involves traveling to Pullman, Wash. to face a 10-4-1 (4-1-0) Cougars squad. The early Friday match will surely challenge the Bruins, considering UCLA has struggled to score all season and WSU is a tough defensive team, allowing less than a goal per game to its opponents.
“They’re always a very, very difficult team to play,” Snow said. “Very organized, very well-coached team ““ a unique system to play against.”
Following the backline breakdown that occurred at Cagan Stadium in Stanford, the Washington State matchup is a dangerous one and the game will be determined by how successfully the Bruins can keep the Cougars from scoring. UCLA’s defense had allowed four goals total prior to Stanford but fell apart and let in four against Stanford alone.
Much of what happens during the remainder of the season will rest on how the Bruins respond, and in particular, how young freshman goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland responds. All four of Stanford’s goals came against the previously stellar Rowland, and the team needs her to bounce back strongly.
According to her replacement, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Alana Munger, that won’t be an issue.
“We are a team, and we look to each other, and we are always just saying, “˜We got this,’” Munger said. “We are a team, and we’ll keep moving forward.”
It is hard to ignore what the Stanford game might have meant for this team. A win would have been a monumental step for a very young team and a huge moment in the young career of rookie coach Snow.
Now, however, it is permanently marked as a loss in the record book, and it wasn’t a particularly sharp performance. The only thing that game can do for this team is provide a lesson ““ one that the Bruins seem to be heeding and will take into consideration against Washington State.
“This game is going to motivate us to work even harder,” freshman defender Abby Dahlkemper said. “We know that there is so much more room for improvement. If we had to lose, I think this was the best time. We’re going to learn from this experience and only go forward from here.”