UCLA women’s soccer did more than just open the door to the 2016 season Friday night – they kicked it down and smashed it to pieces.
A 5-0 win against SDSU – a team that went 15-4-1 last year – was highlighted by a relentless attack that put the game out of reach in an eight-minute stretch in the first half.
But the play of the game came in the second when UCLA was already up 4-0.
Senior forward Amber Munerlyn, who was marked on the left by an Aztec defender, redirected a long pass off her right heel while she was sprinting up field. The ball rolled perfectly in between three crashing defenders, and Munerlyn laced her shot through the top left corner of the goal.
— UCLA Women’s Soccer (@UCLAWSoccer) August 20, 2016
“All of us were going crazy,” said sophomore forward Julia Hernandez. “I hope it’s everywhere on Instagram so everybody can see that.” It has been praised as the goal of the season, despite this being the first game for both teams.
Goal of the season. Give it to her already. https://t.co/qGrXI4bJdH
— Beast Mode Soccer (@BeastModeSoccer) August 20, 2016
“She was so nonchalant about it,” said senior forward Darian Jenkins. “She was like, ‘Guys, it’s fine.’”
The attack-heavy mindset that led to Munerlyn’s goal was present the entire game. The Bruins launched the ball to Jenkins, who was streaking downfield, immediately after the opening whistle, and never ceased to give up the strong offensive presence.
Twelve minutes later, Hernandez was up on a counter 20 feet from the goal. SDSU goalie Gabby English came came off her line to try and improve her angle, but Hernandez launched a shot past her that glanced off of the left post.
Six minutes after that, Hernandez found herself in the same position, this time at the top of the box. She chipped the ball over English’s head and it bounced off the cross bar as it came back down.
The Bruins hit the trifecta when redshirt freshman forward Anika Rodriguez – in heavy traffic on the left side of the goal – had her cross-cage shot ricochet off the right post in the 28th minute.
UCLA had seven shots in the first half by that time, and thanks to solid goalkeeping by English and the left, top and right bars, had not converted any of them.
“We heard the statistics at the end of the game,” Hernandez said. “Most of our shots were on goal, so that’s the important thing. The keepers also play and they make saves, so I think we’re on the right path.”
Indeed, the Bruins were due, and it came swiftly.
In a span of seven minutes and 17 seconds, Jenkins recorded a hat trick to put UCLA up 3-0.
She received a needle-threading pass in the 30th minute from Rodriguez that she tapped in after the initial shot was blocked by English, and three minutes later, English fumbled redshirt junior defender Zoey Goralski’s cross. Jenkins took advantage, and for her third goal, she said it was a product of spacing as much as anything else.
“I was dribbling and everybody just kind of backed off,” Jenkins said. “I had my teammates making good runs to pull the defense out of their shape.”
Coach Amanda Cromwell pulled most of her starters at the beginning of the second half, but left Hernandez and a few others in. After coming close to scoring on many occasions in the first, Hernandez finally got her break.
“One of my teammates told me that if I scored with my head she will make me dinner all week,” Hernandez said.
Sure enough, in the 50th minute, junior midfielder Gabrielle Matulich sent a cross to Hernandez who did just that, recording her first goal of the season.
From there on, Munerlyn’s goal was the only offensive production, but the defense remained strong.
Freshman goalie Teagan Micah played the full 90 minutes after splitting halves with junior goalie Siri Ervik in BYU’s scrimmage. Cromwell has not named a starting goalie yet, but Micah made a good case Friday night. She punched away a cross in the 15th minute and recorded one of her two saves diving to her left in the first half.
“We’re both really athletic and we’re kind of pushing each other on it,” Micah said. “It’s a really healthy relationship that we’ve got at the moment, so we’ll have to see. It will come down to what the coaches really want for that particular game, I guess, but we’re happy for whatever’s going to benefit the team.”
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