Women’s soccer coach Amanda Cromwell was looking for her 300th career victory when the Bruins headed to Arizona.
It didn’t take long to find.
No. 1 UCLA (11-0-1, 4-0-0 Pac-12) maintained its undefeated record Thursday, taking down Arizona State (4-6-2, 1-2-1 Pac-12) 3-0.
“She deserves it so much. … She’s always putting her players first and wanting to help us in every aspect,” said senior defender MacKenzie Cerda. “I think it just goes to show that we play for not only our team but for our coach.”
The Bruins faced the Sun Devils for their first game on the road this week before playing Arizona (5-4-2, 2-2-0) on Sunday. UCLA racked up a number of awards this week, receiving the United Soccer Coaches College Women’s Team Academic Award for its sixth consecutive year Thursday.
The Arizona State defense proved a challenge for the UCLA offense to work through. A number of UCLA’s shots hit the crossbar or the post, leaving the Bruins scoreless.
“We knew they were going to be very organized on defense. … They’re one of the best defending teams as far as sliding and making goal-saving tackles,” Cromwell said. “They did a good job denying us goals, especially in the first half.”
Cromwell said the team’s focus was trying to attack by using multiple players to overload areas, and then finding a second runner to shoot the ball.
“We’ve been playing around with formation a little bit and I think our focus this week has been trying to generally get better chances and have more movement up front,” said sophomore midfielder Jessie Fleming.
Their efforts were soon rewarded.
Junior forward Hailie Mace raced toward a pass from forward redshirt sophomore Anika Rodriguez, slotting the ball into the net to put UCLA on the board in the 19th minute.
Mace was given another scoring opportunity when she took a penalty kick off a Sun Devil handball. The forward fired a shot into the corner, bringing her team up 2-0 and earning her 11th goal this season.
But the Bruins weren’t finished.
The UCLA offense kept the ball in attacking territory. Rodriguez shot a ball that was deflected off the post, then attacked her own rebound for a goal in the 53rd minute, extending the lead to 3-0.
Two goals in two minutes. The mood on the field had changed.
“Having those two goals in two minutes, making it 3-0, put the nail in the coffin,” Cerda said. “We could kind of see a little change in (Arizona State’s) play, just kind of backing off, and I think we wore them down.”
The Bruins kept the pressure on the Sun Devils throughout the game, outshooting Arizona State 19-7 overall. UCLA had a total of eight corner kicks, but had trouble executing on the final touch.
“I think we felt like we could have put a few more away,” Fleming said. “We would have liked to have scored more tonight, more often and definitely earlier. I think that’s been a focus all season, is scoring early and trying to set the tone of the game against other teams.”
The Bruins continued to recycle possession and attack in the final minutes, holding the Sun Devils scoreless until the whistle blew. Sophomore goalkeeper Teagan Micah logged four saves to earn her fifth shutout of the season.
Cromwell is in her fifth season at UCLA and ranks among the top-25 winningest active coaches in NCAA history, as well as the top-30 all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history.
“It’s amazing to think about – all the teams through the years, all the amazing women I’ve coached and I’m so proud to have experienced it with this staff, with this team,” Cromwell said. “There’s no better group to have this ride with.”