This was a winnable match.
Ninth-ranked UCLA women’s soccer didn’t make many mistakes, and for the most part the growing back line held its own, keeping opportunities away from the eighth-ranked University of North Carolina to score on the run. But it was a foul at the edge of the box leading to a penalty kick and a miscommunication on a corner that led to the 2-1 loss for the Bruins.
“North Carolina is definitely an athletic and good team, but I think that our soccer is stronger,” said senior midfielder Annie Alvarado. “I think that when we keep the ball, we should’ve been able to get into – put ourselves in a better position.”
UCLA could not execute its game plan efficiently, coming out flat and unfocused, allowing UNC’s attackers to press. The uneasiness led to passing blunders, keeping the Bruins’ usually rhythmic offense out of sync for most of the first half.
“We just need to come out here and match the intensity that the other team is putting out,” said senior Amber Munerlyn. “And if not, be more intense than them, and just play our game pretty much.”
The Tar Heels’ first goal came when UNC midfielder Annie Kingman made a run toward the ball at the edge of UCLA’s box, and MacKenzie Cerda couldn’t slow herself from running into Kingman. The senior forward knocked over the Tar Heel, and UNC was awarded a penalty kick. Although freshman goalie Teagan Micah guessed correctly on the dive, she still wasn’t close enough to block the kick.
Coach Amanda Cromwell said she was been very proud of Micah’s confidence in the goal so far at the start of the season, and that she expects Micah to improve her communication with the back line as the season goes on.
In the 54th minute, freshman midfielder Jessie Fleming scored the equalizer from a cross by Alvarado, placing the ball the bottom right corner of the goal. Fleming’s goal is her fourth of the season, and she now leads the team in scores.
UNC’s last goal was set up from a corner kick. Kingman curved one into the box and UCLA forward Julia Hernandez headed it out, but UNC’s Megan Buckingham received the ball alone and with plenty of time to prepare. She fired a shot that bounced through the tightly-packed defense and past Micah for the 2-1 lead.
After UNC’s go-ahead goal, the Tar Heels dominated possession for the rest of the match. UCLA had few chances to tie the match as the clock wound down.
Overall, UNC’s defense kept UCLA’s usually mobile and fluid midfield a little stagnant and the Bruins couldn’t capitalize on the few opportunities they had in the box. The Bruins relied on deep shots and were a little impatient on the attack.
One of their own
Coming out onto the pitch Friday night the Bruins wore #LaurenStrong warm up jerseys in honor of UCLA women’s soccer alumna Lauren Holiday. Holiday was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor while pregnant with her and UCLA men’s basketball alumni Jrue Holiday’s child.
“We just wanted her to know that she’s a part of our family and she’s on our minds and we just wanted to honor her by wearing the shirts that the girls warmed up in and the coaches wore during the game,” Cromwell said.
“In the end, the game is about so much more than wins and losses, so being able to honor her tonight like we did was really cool for the girls and i think they’re gonna continue to wear those shirts for every warmup.”