Eighty-five minutes in and UCLA still had no answer for how to break the Stanford pressure.
The Bruins couldn’t sustain any possession, and Cardinal goalkeeper Jane Campbell showed why she is a national team call-up, blocking any shots that somehow managed to trickle through to her.
But for the second consecutive game, UCLA was saved by a fortunate bounce deep in its opponent’s end.
Junior defender MacKenzie Cerda threw the ball in, senior forward Amber Munerlyn flicked it towards goal and the ball bounced right to freshman midfielder Jessie Fleming, who placed it into the top left corner to tie the match at two with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.
But the No. 10 Bruins (9-3-1, 3-1-1 Pac-12) couldn’t hold off the No. 1 Cardinal (11-1-1, 4-1-0) for 110 minutes, falling 3-2 in double overtime.
“It doesn’t surprise me (that we came back),” Munerlyn said. “It’s just a testament to how much we wanted it and how good we are. We have the mentality and the talent to score at will but to put them away, we just didn’t have the focus.”
The Bruins’ first goal was a result of their stretch of possession to begin the game. Senior midfielder Annie Alvarado controlled the ball near midfield and dribbled into attacking third. She then passed it to Munerlyn, who walled off her defender, turned to her right foot and slotted the ball into the lower left corner of the net.
Aside from that 12-minute-long spell of possession at the beginning of the game, however, UCLA mostly found itself pinned in its own third, unable to break Stanford’s offensive pressure.
In the 13th minute, the Cardinal tied the game off a corner kick. Freshman goalie Teagan Micah punched out the kick but it went straight to Stanford midfielder Andi Sullivan, who directed it home.
From there, Stanford dominated the run of play, controlling the ball for the majority of the first half and coming up with nine shots on goal and eight corners throughout the game. The Cardinal finally capitalized in the 63rd minute, scoring the go-ahead goal off a throw-in.
“Stanford really took it to us there in the first half, after they tied it up,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “We were good for the first 10, 15 minutes when we scored. Then they tied it up and we seemed to lose some of our momentum and possession. So as the game went on, I think Stanford was the better team in the first half.”
UCLA’s stamina was tested after it played 110 minutes against Cal on Thursday followed by today’s sunny conditions on the field.
“Not trying to make excuses but we were definitely a bit tired from this weekend and our game against Cal,” Fleming said. “We had some players come in and make a huge difference. We just weren’t able to finish some of our chances.”
Cromwell added the Bruins wore themselves out chasing the game in the first half, but they were able to gain an advantage after Stanford also slowed down towards the end of the second half.
Both teams had their fair share of opportunities in overtime, but Stanford scored the winning goal off a corner kick two minutes into the second period, ending UCLA’s chances at a comeback. The close loss to the top-ranked team in the country hasn’t fazed the team though, according to freshman defender Kaiya McCullough.
“Although we didn’t get the exact results we wanted, I think it is a big confidence booster just in terms of ‘If that’s No. 1 then we can be so much better,’” McCullough said. “If that’s what we have to get to fight to win a national championship then I think we can do it.”