This past weekend, the Bruins traveled to La Jolla for what would be the toughest test of the season thus far.
After dominant victories in the first three rounds of the Triton Invitational, No. 1 UCLA (7-1) fell 8-6 to No. 2 USC (6-0) in the championship game Sunday.
The Bruins opened the weekend with a commanding win over the Sonoma State Seawolves (2-7). Eleven Bruins notched points in the 17-1 victory, including two each from six different players.
In the second match of the day against No. 16 LMU (4-6), senior center India Forster led UCLA to a 14-7 triumph with a hat trick. In the first day of the invitational, coach Brandon Brooks was able to utilize his bench and give some younger players a chance to gain experience, highlighting the depth of the team.
The smooth sailing continued through the semifinals with a 5-1 win over No. 7 UC Davis (8-4). Sophomore attacker Devin Grab, senior attacker Charlotte Pratt, redshirt junior center Alexa Tielmann and junior utility Mackenzie Barr all contributed goals in the win.
The most highly contested game of the weekend was undoubtedly the championship game against the Trojans. Amid defensive struggles, the Bruins were handed their first loss of the 2016 season.
“We did a lot of good things, but we didn’t convert when we needed to,” Brooks said. “As a coach, it’s great that we’re doing a lot of things and that we’re creating opportunities, but just creating opportunities is not enough.”
USC came out strong and took an early 2-0 lead in the first quarter, forcing UCLA to come from behind.
“We had to battle back the whole time,” Brooks said. “We can’t expect to win a close game if we’re trading goals.”
The Bruins briefly took the lead in the second quarter, but in the end the Trojans were too much for the Bruins to handle. In the loss, junior attacker Ashley Zwirner led the Bruins in scoring with two goals. Forster, Barr and junior attackers Kelsey O’Brien and Aubrie Monahan all managed to find the back of the net as well.
This game served as a marker for where the team is now, and where it needs to improve to reach its full potential.
“I just think we can learn from mistakes that we’ve made, and if we watch film it’ll be really beneficial,” Barr said. “It was a good game and it’s always going to be tough against USC. It was nice to get the experience.”
Although the outcome of the game was not what UCLA had hoped, there were still positives to draw from the team’s performance.
“Our communication was good throughout the game and we had a lot of fight the whole time,” said Monahan. “We just need to grow and play with each other a bit more, and we’ll figure it out.”
The Bruins will next travel to play No. 9 UC Irvine (6-4), who finished third at the Triton Invitational, Friday.