Sophomore goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland let out a frustrated yell as she pounded her glove on the grass and began to get up.
For the second time in as many minutes, the ball was in the net behind her. A one-goal lead for UCLA had turned into a one-goal deficit in the blink of an eye.
Despite leading for much of the second half, the No. 2 UCLA women’s soccer team (15-1-2, 8-1-1 Pac-12) could not hold off a relentless Stanford offense, which scored two quick goals late in the game for a 2-1 comeback victory. This was the No. 1 Cardinal’s (16-1-1, 10-0-0) sixth straight win over the Bruins.
“I mean, its tough, but you just got to stay positive. I think that our team fought until the end,” Rowland said.
“We will learn. We know the feeling now and we are really going to fight to never feel this again.”
Sunday night’s game, one many considered the marquee college women’s soccer game of the season, lived up to all the hype surrounding it.
“It was a great atmosphere and it’s great for college soccer in general,” said coach B.J. Snow.
After a scoreless first half for both teams, UCLA found the back of the net in the 49th minute. Freshman forward Taylor Smith sent a low ball from the right side of the box to the far post, scoring off a deflected shot from senior forward Zakiya Bywaters.
The Bruins grabbed the momentum after their goal, sending several dangerous balls towards the Cardinal goalkeeper but were unable to capitalize, a fact that hurt them dearly in the final minutes of Sunday’s game.
“I think the game changed when we couldn’t put the one in the back of the net down there,” Snow said. “We had a couple opportunities and we (left) a great team like Stanford in the game. But I was really proud with the effort of our girls.”
Stanford scored two nearly identical goals in the 77th and 79th minute. Both shots were launched from the left side of the field to the far post, past a diving Rowland.
“We had our chances. It was a good game, a good battle,” Bywaters said.
“We came out to play the first half. The last part of the second half, we just kind of let it slip away from us. But we learn from our mistakes and just move forward from there.”
The second half also proved the difference in Friday’s win 3-0 over No. 21 Cal (15-4-0, 8-2-0). Three minutes into the second half, Bywaters placed a left-footed shot far post to put the Bruins on the board. A penalty kick by sophomore Sarah Killion and a goal by sophomore Crystal Shaffie in the 86th minute completed the scoring.
Playing in their last home game of the regular season with the opportunity to avenge last year’s 4-1 loss in Palo Alto, Calif., Sunday’s loss undoubtedly hurt the Bruins. But with the postseason looming, Snow prefers that his team feel the pain now rather than later.
“It was a great test for us. Both teams going in tonight, it was a measuring stick for where we are going into the NCAA tournament,” Snow said.
“If we are going to have this feeling, I would much rather have it now so that we can learn some things.”