Pac-12 season is officially here for the men’s soccer team.
No. 13 UCLA (4-2-1) will stay in Westwood this weekend to face No. 16 Washington (6-2) Thursday evening and Oregon State (4-3-1) Sunday afternoon, after falling to Cal Poly on the road 1-0 nearly a week ago.
“I think the whole team is very excited to get into the Pac-12,” said senior defender Michael Amick. “Washington, Thursday, will be a good start for us … a good opportunity to get going and bounce back after a loss.”
Though the Cal Poly Mustangs are unranked, the Bruins performed well against their more competitive non-conference opponents. Against top-ranked schools such as No. 1 Maryland and former No. 1 Akron, the Bruins managed a draw and a win respectively.
Even with the positive results conference play feels different altogether and coach Jorge Salcedo made the goal clear.
“Our first goal every year is to have a lot of success in the Pac-12,” Salcedo said. “Every game is a battle and we expect to win the Pac-12 and set out every game to win each and every game.”
When the Bruins played Washington at the start of last season, it proved to be a tough matchup. They came out with the 3-2 victory after the game was pushed to double overtime.
Over the course of the conference season, however, each team plays the other twice, and UCLA held a 2-1 lead after 90 minutes expired to prevent another overtime in last year’s second episode.
Oregon State was a different story. Although coming down to the wire in double overtime, the Bruins lost 1-0 in their first matchup but were able to top the Beavers the second time around at the end of last season 4-1.
“Each year, each team that we play is good so I think that the practice games against Maryland, Akron, and Indiana will definitely help us against our first two games,” said sophomore midfielder Jackson Yueill. “Even though (Oregon State) may not be ranked as high, they will still come out hard.”
The standouts for each team could give the Bruins a hard time. Washington forward Mason Robertson leads the Huskies in goals so far this season and junior forward Timmy Mueller had his second career hat trick in the Beavers’ 3-1 win against San Jose State.
While the Bruins have a handful of standouts themselves, there have been some intangible assets that have been key to their early performance.
“The camaraderie is definitely the most pleasant surprise of the season because it’s definitely the most palpable on and off the field,” Amick said. “The team has become very close with each other. We can all hang out with one another and it really shows in the way we play and it’s coming through in the results we’ve seen so far.”