The Bruins will open the regular season Friday after finishing one goal short of claiming the national championship last season.
UCLA women’s soccer fell to Pac-12 rival Stanford 3-2 in the NCAA championship match last season. Senior forward Julia Hernandez said the Bruins are motivated by their loss.
“I’ve been on two different teams and have lost the finals twice so I need to get that ring,” Hernandez said. “We all need to share that ring after last year.”
UCLA finished ranked second in the nation behind Stanford last season, with a record of 18-3-2, whereas Stanford was undefeated in conference play and lost one match the entire season. UCLA will head into the upcoming season ranked second in the United Coaches and Pac-12 coaches preseason polls.
UCLA lost four starting seniors last season to graduation – defenders Claire Winter, Zoey Goralski, MacKensie Cerda and defender/forward Gabrielle Matulich.
Winter was named co-captain of the team in 2017. During that season, she played in 20 games and made 11 starts. Goralski started all throughout her collegiate career, playing in all but two of 90 games. She started as outside back, midfielder and forward.
The Bruins added seven new recruits to the roster, but coach Amanda Cromwell said the incoming class is not expected to make an immediate impact on the starting-11.
To begin the 2018 season, UCLA claimed a win over BYU in an exhibition match. Hernandez scored with 1:35 left to play to give the Bruins a 2-1 win. Junior forward Sunny Dunphy said the team was experimenting with a new 4-4-2 formation and how to attack with two forwards.
Cromwell said the lineup against BYU will carry into the first games of the season, as players return from injury and the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France.
“We’ll have pretty much the same crew,” Cromwell said. “The U-20s are still in France so this will be it going forward for the next few weeks. We have three out with ACLs and we’re working Hailie Mace back into the mix.”
The preseason match marked the last game the women’s soccer team will play in Drake stadium.
UCLA men’s and women’s soccer will be ushered into the new $10 million soccer-specific Wallis Annenberg Stadium this week, which was formerly a practice field. Cromwell said while the venue lacks 9,000 seats in comparison to Drake, it will make up for the size in atmosphere.
“The fans will be super engaged and on top of the field,” Cromwell said. “The more intimate feel will be really fun because even though capacity will be around 2,500, it will feel much bigger and more exciting.”
The Bruins beat cross-town rival USC in a game that was decided in overtime in front of an NCAA regular season record crowd of 11,925 fans last season at Drake.
“I’m going to miss it,” Dunphy said. “I will always remember when we packed Drake for the USC game last year. That was one of the most special games in my entire career, so being able to score a goal in my last game here is awesome.”
UCLA will open the regular season hosting Long Beach State in the inaugural match at the Wallis Annenberg Stadium Friday.
The Bruins have won two out of their past three meetings with Long Beach State. Last season the Bruins claimed a 5-1 win over the 49ers as then-freshman midfielder Delanie Sheehan netted twice, but the Bruins fell to Long Beach State 1-0 in 2015.
“We try to play them every year,” Cromwell said. “Southern California teams are always really good and they are always a battle because they play up for us. It’s always a good first game to see where we are, just like BYU.”