In the most intense moments of a game, crowds are often on their feet chanting one word: defense.
The UCLA women’s soccer team has been heeding the crowd’s advice this year, establishing itself as a defensive powerhouse, which has shown in its undefeated record (12-0-2, 5-0-1 Pac-12).
“I have, literally, the most confidence in the world in my backline,” said sophomore goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland. “It starts with the whole team, but really my backline has been a rock for our team this season.”
Opponents have scored only five goals against the Bruins this season and no more than one in any game.
A big reason for that is Rowland, who has 28 saves and seven shutouts on the year.
The keeper already ranks fourth all-time in UCLA career shutouts after only a season and a half, though she refuses to take any of the credit.
“I give God all the glory and also it’s really just about my team,” Rowland said. “I wouldn’t be able to get close without my backline. They’ve really carried the team.”
Rowland is aided in the backfield by sophomore defender Abby Dahlkemper and senior defender Lucretia Lee, among others.
Dahlkemper recently was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for her play in the team’s victories over Oregon and Oregon State.
“I think it’s honestly a reflection of how the team defensively as a whole has been,” Dahlkemper said.
“I just think as a team we’ve been playing so well defensively and just working really hard together and for each other, making it easier on ourselves.”
One of the team’s main philosophies this year has been to dominate possession of the ball on the offensive side, which helps limit the chances that opponents get at the goal.
The mentality has resulted in UCLA being among the top in the nation in defensive statistical categories such as goals against average, save percentage and shutout percentage.
“We’re familiar with each other because the backline was the same as last year,” Dahlkemper said. “It’s not even the backline, it’s the team’s defense as a whole … the midfielders and the forwards, it starts with their defense as well.”
When the Bruins take the field at Drake Stadium this weekend, one thing is for certain.
Their defense will be in attendance.