The Bruins will face the two teams fighting for points in the Pac-12.
No. 8 UCLA women’s soccer (11-3-1, 6-2-0 Pac 12) will go on the road this weekend to play Utah (8-7-1, 5-3-0) and No. 20 Colorado (13-1-3, 5-1-2) – the two teams ranked directly below them in the conference.
“Colorado’s coming off a beat down against Stanford, so I’m sure they’re going to have a little extra ‘umph’ in them after that,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “Utah is kind of making a run right now as far as getting themselves in the rankings. Everyone at this point is fighting for RPI points, so it’s going to be two battles.”
Utah goalkeeper Carly Nelson is ranked third in the conference in saves with 65, and fifth in save percentage, logging .813 saves per game.
Cromwell said Utah and Colorado are both strong defensively.
“Both teams have really well-organized defenses, and they’re going to look to counter on us,” Cromwell said.
The Buffaloes are one spot behind the Bruins in the conference standings and have two leading scorers in the Pac-12.
Colorado forward Jorian Baucom has posted 12 goals, the tied for most in the league, and six assists for a total of 30 points this season – the most of any player in the conference. Forward Tatum Barton is right behind her teammate in goals scored, with 11.
Colorado is averaging 2.71 goals per game as a team, with a conference high of 46 goals on the season.
Junior defender Jacey Pederson said the Bruin defense is capable of stopping any team’s offense.
“We’ll approach them the same way we approach any game – we’ll shut them down,” Pederson said. “(Defenders junior Kaiya McCullough and sophomore Karina Rodriguez) hold it down back there. They can handle any forward in the country, I’m confident about it.”
McCullough and Rodriguez have played every game this season and have both been named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.
The Bruin back line recently added senior defender Hailie Mace, who returned Sunday from United States national team duty. Redshirt junior midfielder Chloe Castaneda said that Mace adds pace to the UCLA defense.
“With the new addition of (Mace) into the back line, I think that adds a speed factor,” Castaneda said. “Our back line has been playing really well together, so I think we’re prepared to take them on.”
The Buffaloes have 6-foot-1-inch midfielder Taylor Kornieck, whose 10 assists put her in second place for most in the conference. Kornieck has also scored eight goals.
Five of Kornieck goals have come in Colorado’s last five games, and five have been on set pieces.
“(With) Kornieck you have to worry about on set plays because she’s over 6 feet tall, so she’s just a threat,” Cromwell said. “She’s a threat in the run of play too – she’ll shoot from anywhere.”
The Bruins have three games left for a chance to claim the Pac-12 title, with two this weekend.