The Bruins are back on the road to start the back half of Pac-12 play.
No. 10 UCLA women’s soccer (8-3-1, 3-2-0 Pac-12) heads to Seattle to face Washington (7-5-1, 2-3-0) on Friday at 6 p.m.
Coach Amanda Cromwell said this week’s focus is on winning set pieces.
“(Washington) executes their set plays well,” Cromwell said. “They take their chances and are opportunistic and can finish from long range as well, so we have to be very mindful and alert to what they may be setting up on corners or for free kicks.”
The Bruins have yet to allow a goal from a corner kick this season under the leadership of a consistent back line.
Sophomore defender Karina Rodriguez and junior defender Kaiya McCullough lead the team in minutes played, each logging over 1,000 minutes through 12 games. McCullough was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for the week of Oct. 9, while Rodriguez earned the title three weeks earlier.
“Set pieces definitely will win and lose games,” Rodriguez said. “I think mixing up what we do, not only offensively but defensively – winning the first ball, clearing it – I think it’s a part of the game that a lot of people don’t realize is so important.”
Rodriguez and McCullough will be facing off against Washington’s leading goal scorer midfielder Olivia Van der Jagt. The midfielder has scored five times this season, four of which have been game-winners for the Huskies.
Offensively, UCLA has only capitalized on one of its 83 corner kicks this season.
The Bruins are now also missing their regular player who takes corner kicks, senior forward Anika Rodriguez, who injured her knee against Arizona State on Oct. 4.
Anika Rodriguez is one of the six regular starters who have missed games due to injury or national team duties.
“With the injuries and people being gone, a lot of us have had to step up and do more than we’re used to which is a great thing,” said sophomore midfielder Olivia Athens. “I think we’re starting to play actually well together now, so keeping that going and playing to our strengths will hopefully help us score some goals.”
Cromwell said scoring goals has been a struggle for the Bruins, who, despite keeping possession, have been unable to create threatening shots. UCLA has recorded 96 shots on goal, which converted to 24 goals this season.
Cromwell said the match against the Huskies, who are 0-3 versus ranked opponents, may be a turning point.
“(Washington) doesn’t sit in as much as some other teams, so maybe we can find some space in behind,” Cromwell said. “It’s really about recognizing what they’re doing, finding the gaps and timing our runs.”
UCLA will play four of its last six regular-season games on the road, starting with the match Friday.
“I think starting off a little rocky was tough so just finding ways to win and get the points that we need, especially with a couple away trips coming up, is going to be important,” Karina Rodriguez said.
A win for the Bruins would hand the Huskies their third consecutive loss.