Although No. 2 UCLA women’s soccer rebounded with a 3-0 win Sunday, coach Amanda Cromwell highlighted a concern after the team’s first loss this year: The Bruins have struggled to combine their wealth of individual talent into a more cohesive unit.
“We just weren’t dangerous enough,” Cromwell said after Thursday’s loss. “(The game against Washington State) was the least collective effort of the year. It was very individualistic tonight.”
Thursday marked UCLA’s first loss since they were knocked out of the 2016 NCAA Tournament by West Virginia in the third round.
Unranked Washington State took down UCLA (13-1-2, 6-1-1 Pac-12) 1-0, logging the biggest upset in the Cougars’ program history before falling to the No. 6 USC Trojans three days later.
“This isn’t a game that we just sat back,” said Washington State coach Todd Shulenberger to WSU Athletics. “We got after the (Bruins) in the first half.”
Junior forward Hailie Mace said after Thursday’s game that the Cougars’ defense made it difficult for the Bruins to play together.
“We need to work on not playing as individuals because sometimes that happens during a game when … it’s hard for us to get behind them,” Mace said. “I think we just have to focus on playing faster and playing more as a team.”
Multiple freshmen have been making an immediate impact on the field, including forward Ashley Sanchez, defender Karina Rodriguez and midfielder Delanie Sheehan.
Rodriguez and Sanchez have logged more minutes than experienced veterans like redshirt senior defender Zoey Goralski and senior Gabrielle Matulich. The two freshmen claim the fourth and fifth spots in minutes played, and Sanchez notched her fourth goal of the year in the 3-0 win over Washington on Sunday.
Cromwell added that the offense was very predictable against Washington State. The coach switched the team’s formation from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 in the second half, which she said helped with possession of the ball. But the Bruins struggled with getting behind the Cougars’ player-heavy defense that obstructed any openings to the goal.
UCLA had eight corner kicks and 13 shots against Washington State, but failed to turn those into a goal. Sanchez echoed Cromwell’s statement and said the Bruins needed to switch up their offensive tactics for future games.
“We needed to do better at trying to have more variety of attacking,” Sanchez said after Thursday’s loss. “We continued to do the same thing all game. … I think this was a good wake-up call that as a team we need to do better. We definitely aren’t going to want to lose again.”