It’s playoff time for the Bruins.
No. 2-seeded UCLA women’s soccer (14-3-1) will begin its 22nd NCAA tournament appearance at home this week against San Jose State (9-6-6), a team the Bruins have yet to face this season.
“They are a good California team with good California players,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “Some of these players are junior college transfers and SoCal kids that are familiar with some of our players. We know we always have a tough first-round game, every year.”
In the Bruins’ 21st NCAA tournament appearance last year, UCLA advanced to the championship match but was defeated by Stanford 3-2.
Junior goalkeeper Teagan Micah said that she is confident in UCLA’s chances to win it all this time around.
“We have a really good shot to take it all the way,” Micah said. “We’ve been working hard. Each year you have a different team with so many different players and they bring different things to the table, but as a program we are looking really good.”
The Bruins graduated six seniors in 2018, but nine of UCLA’s starting 11 from the championship match are still on the squad.
Cromwell said the current squad looks and plays differently from last year’s squad, due in part to absences this season that have forced UCLA to grow.
“There was a point in the season that we were still missing players and I thought ‘We are further along at this point than we were last year,’” Cromwell said. “I think that is still the case. We look more sophisticated and have different weapons in different areas. This is a team that can break another team down and I think we are better at that this year, at this point in the season.”
In preparation for the Spartans, Cromwell said the squad has been focusing on being able to work through chaos, as well as creating it.
“We know that there are times when the ball is bouncing around and we have to be good at half chances, finding them and having a nose for the goal,” Cromwell said. “At training today, they were relentless in trying to be around the goal and put it on frame and not let it out and that’s the kind of thing that we need to do tomorrow.”
In each of San Jose State’s three Mountain West Conference tournament matches, it outfouled its opponent, recording as many as 21 fouls in a single game.
“I’m sure this game will be physical,” Cromwell said. “Hopefully it doesn’t turn into too much fouling. If we move the ball quickly they won’t be able to foul us so hopefully they won’t be destructive in that way.”
The Bruins were exposed to frequent fouling last weekend in their overtime victory when the Trojans recorded 14 fouls, compared to the Bruins’ eight.
Senior forward Hailie Mace said that she expects another chippy match Friday due to the high stakes of the match.
“They are the underdogs,” Mace said. “They have nothing to lose, so I think that they are going to come all out and play like it’s their last game.”
The Bruins and Spartans will kick off at 6 p.m. at Wallis Annenberg Stadium in their first match of the postseason.