UCLA women’s soccer will begin their postseason campaign Friday, hosting the first round of the NCAA tournament against San Diego State.
The tournament bracket was unveiled Monday, naming SDSU (12-7-2) as the first hurdle for UCLA (15-2-2, 8-2-1 Pac-12), which earned a No. 2 seed in the tournament.
San Diego State came to Westwood in August for UCLA’s season opener, in which the Bruins toppled the Aztecs 5-1.
“Obviously we’re really familiar with (SDSU), we just have to make sure we don’t think about that last result because it doesn’t matter,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “They’ve improved over the course of the season, we’ve improved, so we just have to prepare for this one game.”
This is the Bruins’ 21st appearance in the NCAA tournament, and UCLA leads the all-time series against San Diego State 13-1-1.
“I think we play well but the bright side for us is that we’re still improving,” Cromwell said. “We haven’t peaked yet and that’s what we want to do in the postseason.”
The Bruins finished their regular season with a dramatic 3-2 win in overtime against the USC Trojans. Sophomore midfielder Jessie Fleming missed the last regular season game and will also be absent Friday as she plays for the Canadian national team.
However, Cromwell said multiple players stepped up to fill the void.
“Players stepped up in the last game, I think that was key,” Cromwell said. “Someone like (sophomore defender) Jacey Pederson who hasn’t played in how many games … she came in and got some really good minutes and played really well.”
Cromwell also moved redshirt sophomore forward Anika Rodriguez to the center-middle position and said Rodriguez was fantastic against the Trojans.
“You see that we don’t just rely on one person,” Cromwell said. “Everyone steps up and does their job.”
UCLA is one of seven Pac-12 teams to move on to the NCAA tournament, with No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 3 seed USC. The Bruins wrapped up their regular season with only two losses.
“We always talk about peaking at the right time,” said redshirt senior Claire Winter. “I think we’ve already faced a couple of adversities like our loss to Washington State and our loss to Stanford, and with these losses we’ve learned so much.”
The winner of Friday’s match at Drake Stadium will face either Northwestern (12-7-2) or Butler (13-2-5) in the second round. UCLA is slotted in a quadrant with No. 3 seed Virginia, a nonconference team that the Bruins beat in September 2-1.
“I like how they separated us and some of the Pac-12 schools out so we won’t be meeting each other early,” Cromwell said. “I’m excited to play some of the schools that we haven’t seen this year in the ACC and hopefully look forward to winning and moving on.”
Six Bruins earned Pac-12 postseason awards, with Fleming, junior forward Hailie Mace and freshman forward Ashley Sanchez named to the All-Pac-12 First Team. Sophomore defender Kaiya McCullough was named to the second team, and senior defender Mackenzie Cerda earned a spot on the third team.
Sanchez and forward Delanie Sheehan were also selected to the All-Freshman team.
“Having the momentum at the end of the season is really fantastic,” said redshirt senior defender Zoey Goralski. “I think we’re on the up and up, which is exactly what we want going into the postseason.”