In order to succeed in the NCAA tournament, there is only one thing the women’s soccer team needs to do: survive. Every game has to be fought like it is their last, because, with the tournament’s single-elimination format, it could be.

“Surviving and winning is ultimately the goal when you’re playing in the tournament,” coach B.J. Snow said.

“Every game is the national championship game; you have to survive to play in the next round. Ultimately, it gives us better odds (of) doing that if we have a complete 90-minute performance, so that will continue to be the goal.”

This lesson is something the team has already learned firsthand, when it pulled off a hard-fought victory over Wisconsin in the tournament’s first round.

“Last game, we were more surviving and being very hopeful,” sophomore defender Ally Courtnall said.

But the team knows that, in order to survive at this level, it will need to elevate its level of play above what got it through the season.

The Bruins will look to continue improving their play in Friday’s second round matchup against Kentucky.

“I think next game, we definitely want to step it up and play quality soccer (in addition to) winning the game,” Courtnall said.

The team understands that reaching that level of playing high quality soccer for a full 90 minutes will help them endure and be successful in their playoff run.

“It’s going to be a battle,” said senior midfielder/forward Zakiya Bywaters. “Everybody’s trying to compete just to stay in, (if you lose) you’re one and done.”

And if they are going to be victorious, the players will need to be able to stay focused.

“Mentality is crucial to anyone’s success in the NCAA tournament, so we definitely ask of that from our girls,” Snow said.

“That’s always the complicated thing. … You have to have the composure to be able to do the things that you do well.”

The Bruins realize that they have not played their best soccer recently. They recognize that if they play to their potential there are not many teams that will be able to stop them.

“It’s definitely not going to be easy, but I think that we’ve made it a lot harder on ourselves than it should be,” Courtnall said.

“If we play how we should, then I think we shouldn’t have to grind it out. We should play quality soccer and no one will be able to keep up with us.”

Email Jason at jdrantch@media.ucla.edu