This post was updated Nov. 13 at 5:30 p.m.
It didn’t take long for UCLA women’s soccer to get ahead against Seattle Friday night.
Less than four minutes into the match, redshirt freshman midfielder Anika Rodriguez created space in the middle of the field, dribbled past a lone defender then rocketed a line drive into the left side of the goal to take a 1-0 lead.
The fourth-seeded Bruins (14-5-1) then exhibited a sturdy defense and possession-based offensive strategy for the rest of the game en route to a 3-0 victory against the Redhawks (14-6-1) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I think we executed our game plan to the tee,” said redshirt junior defender Zoey Goralski. “We were perfect in what we decided to do. We were intense the whole game, and I think that was important.”
UCLA’s offense sparked under its new 4-3-3 formation in the first half.
With space on the wings, attackers were able to push down the sides of the pitch and generate several opportunities. Freshman forward Sunny Dunphy and Goralski opened up avenues on each side of the field, resulting in multiple crosses in the box and shots on goal.
Dunphy had two chances early on, but couldn’t capitalize. One shot was saved by Seattle’s goalkeeper while the other missed just right of the cage.
Even with a few misses throughout the night, the offense displayed a rhythm similar to last week’s bout against USC.
“I think the last few games have definitely gone the way we wanted, and we (have) adapted really well to changing our formation,” said freshman midfielder Jessie Fleming. “Different people have stepped up and different people are scoring, so I think we’re in a good (place) right now.”
The Bruins’ back line stymied the Redhawks for much of the first half, limiting to zero shots in the first 28 minutes of the game. Their first shot proved to be their best chance of the evening.
After a foul on UCLA, Seattle forward Brie Hooks scorched a free kick through the Bruins’ wall headed toward the left side of the goal. But just before the line drive met the back of the net, freshman goalie Teagan Micah dove to her right and caught the ball to keep the Redhawks off the board.
“The defense has been playing great,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “(The Redhawks) are a very dangerous (team), so I think our back line did a really good job of containing them and denying them shots.”
While the back line continued to frustrate Seattle’s attack force during the second half, UCLA’s offense extended its lead on two unconventional opportunities.
In the 60th minute, Goralski sped down the right side of the pitch past a few defenders before launching what looked like a cross before she scurried out of bounds. The ball soared just above the outstretched goalie, hit the left post then rattled in for her first goal of the year.
With less than eight minutes left in the game, senior forward Amber Munerlyn notched the dagger for the Bruins.
Redshirt senior forward Courtney Proctor whipped a cross into the box from the right side. After a short scramble between the two teams, Munerlyn received a ground pass from the right then blasted a point blank shot into the left side of the goal.
“We had talked about scoring more and just, you know, solidifying our win,” Rodriguez said. “We wanted it to be obvious that we won this game, so I think getting those two goals for sure helped us. We never stop – we want to keep scoring.”
With the victory, UCLA will likely hit the road to West Virginia, where it will meet Nebraska in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska beat South Dakota State in penalty kicks 0-0 (3-0) Friday afternoon.