Just moments into the game, Washington men’s soccer’s senior forward Nate Sackeyfio charged the goal, leapt and lunged his head at the incoming ball, looking to aim a shot past UCLA’s redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Earl Edwards.
The moment was reminiscent of UCLA’s loss to Washington just weeks ago, when Sackeyfio scored an early goal for Washington, who didn’t surrender the lead the rest of the game.
But not this time. The ball sailed just inches past Sackeyfio’s head and harmlessly out of bounds.
Just as UCLA escaped that early scare, they escaped Washington with a 1-0 win, holding off a relentless attack during the second half.
“They got a little close at times, but it was the same thing over and over again,” said junior forward Reed Williams.
“They would get the ball out of bounds, they’d take 30 seconds and there would be a long throw in. We practiced on it for the past couple days. We knew it was coming.”
This time it was No. 7 UCLA (11-2-2, 6-1-0 Pac-12) who jumped out to the early lead. Williams placed a perfect chip pass over the head of a No. 24 Washington (11-4-3. 6-1-2) defender to senior midfielder/forward Ryan Hollingshead, finished the play with a sliding shot beneath the hands of the diving goalkeeper.
“I thought our goal was worthy of winning the match,” coach Jorge Salcedo said.
“The goal, the way we created it, was a microcosm of who we are and I am very proud of how we broke them down, how we penetrated them and how we finished on that play.”
Although the two teams have been evenly matched throughout this season, the Bruins and Huskies couldn’t have more different styles of play.
UCLA tried to control possession and focus on passing while Washington played a direct game, launching long passes and throw-ins to try to create opportunities.
With the two teams trying to make the other adapt to their strategy, they butted heads throughout the game, causing momentum and control to shift back and forth.
“Them playing direct, it really just kills our rhythm as a team. It’s really difficult to play against, but today we just found a way to win,” said redshirt senior midfielder/forward Fernando Monge.
The game was about more than just revenge. Washington came into the game in first place in the Pac-12.
A second victory over UCLA could have all but clinched the conference for the Huskies.
With their win, UCLA now takes a commanding position in the Pac-12, with their postseason hopes in their own hands.
“We had to roll our sleeves up and fight and that’s what we did,” Salcedo said.
“So we’ve now put ourselves in a position to control our own destiny in the conference.”