Early in the second half of the Elite Eight matchup, Stanford started hammering shots at UCLA’s goal.
Sophomore goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland grabbed one, then another and then again, a save. Each time she snagged the ball, she drop-kicked it across the field, where it went right back to the opposing players’ feet.
Then, with 35 minutes left in the Bruins’ season, Cardinal sophomore midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta curled the ball past Rowland.
The Cardinal leapt into one another’s arms, and cheers echoed through the stadium.
Minutes later, LaBonta tucked another one into the goal, sealing the teams’ fates.
UCLA women’s soccer lost 2-1 to Stanford in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament, ending their season.
The first half was strong on both sides, showing exactly why both had gone so far in the tournament.
“The first half was as good of a performance I’ve seen in collegiate soccer in a long time. … We executed in the second half but unfortunately things bounced the wrong way ,” coach B.J. Snow said.
While the Bruins had not managed to beat the Cardinal since 2008, historic problems against Stanford were the last thing on UCLA’s mind.
“That’s always in the back of our minds, but this time I think we did set that aside and that really showed that we believed we were better,” said sophomore defender Ally Courtnall.
The three players who had so often battled against the Cardinal were the senior trio of defender Lucretia Lee, midfielder Chelsea Cline and forward Zakiya Bywaters.
“They were all awesome leaders,” said sophomore midfielder Sam Mewis, UCLA’s lone goal-scorer. “There’s no one like Z (Zakiya) . Chelsea is the hardest worker I’ve ever played with, and Lucretia stepped up in her role tonight. … They’re all awesome players.”
Coach Snow said the trio took strong leadership roles from the very end of their junior year.
“All three of them, from the moment last year ended in the spring, embraced the role of their leadership. All of them have different styles. They propelled our team, and they had such significant roles on the field and off the field,” Snow said.
Throughout Friday’s game, the three were leading their team on the field as they had all season. Though they powered through the first half, things started to lag late in the game.
The team found itself frustrated by Stanford’s offense and struggled to make good on second-half opportunities.
Even though the Cardinal is a historically strong squad, the Bruins never doubted that they had a chance to advance to the Final Four.
But at the end of the day, Stanford moves on to San Diego, and UCLA comes back to Westwood, ready to work toward its next season.
“We had nothing to lose. We gave it all we had. The team thought we were going to do it. … It’s disappointing,” Mewis said. “It’s hard to handle but we’ll get through it.”
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