There’s a lot of history going into this week’s women’s soccer game between UCLA and Stanford, two perennial conference powers. But for coach Amanda Cromwell, who’s in her first year coaching in the Pac-12, none of
that really matters.
“It’s funny – Stanford means nothing more to me than any other Pac-12 school. I think I bring that to the girls like, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal; it’s just another game in the Pac-12,’” Cromwell said. “We prepare for them the same, we go about it the same, we don’t add any extra anxiety to it or stress level, because in the end it’s just another game.”
Junior defender Caprice Dydasco said her coach’s message to keep calm and carry on has gotten through to the team, and the Bruins will approach today’s game with that in mind.
“I think we have to just play our own game and just do what we’re good at and stick to our game and not worry about them, and let them adapt to us,” Dydasco said.
What Cromwell said she wants the team to focus on is the Pac-12 Conference as a whole, emphasizing that exiting every conference game with a win is what really matters.
Though No. 2 UCLA (10-1-1, 2-0-1 Pac-12) and No. 5 Stanford (9-1-1, 2-1-0) are currently the two highest ranked teams in the conference, Cromwell doesn’t believe in favorites either, stating that the competitive nature of the conference makes it a breeding ground for upsets to happen.
And that “Any Given Sunday” moment happened last week, appropriately enough on a Sunday, when a then-No. 2 Cardinal fell to an unranked Arizona State Sun Devils team.
“We go into every Pac-12 game as a must win because I think the conference is so good. You saw Arizona State beat Stanford, so there’s a variety of teams that can win the conference, it’s not just us and Stanford,” Cromwell said.
The Bruins will play the Cardinal tonight in Cagan Stadium at Stanford, and though that might represent hostile ground for most members of the team, one Bruin can expect to see some familiar faces there.
“It’s always like a nice homecoming for me,” said junior defender Abby Dahlkemper, who grew up five minutes away from Stanford. “I’ll be able to see a lot of friends and family and be able to play with their support on the sidelines, so it’s always a lot of fun.”
UCLA enters this matchup having outplayed Washington in its last game, taking 20 more shots and six more corners. However, the scoreless draw also indicates an absence of a finishing touch, an issue which Cromwell said she addressed by gearing the practice after Monday’s game toward finishing and set pieces.
“We definitely learned a lot the next day … We need to be good on set pieces and they’re a really big, important part of the game because those little details can make a huge difference,” said Dahlkemper, who plays a big part in the Bruins’ set pieces as both a free-kick taker and a key target in the box during corner kicks. “So many teams are so good this year that set pieces could be the difference between winning and losing.”