Nine Bruins will be added to a UCLA women’s soccer roster that is going to graduate just two seniors.
Three forwards, three midfielders, two defenders and a goalkeeper – seven of which have played on youth national teams – make up the Bruins’ incoming freshman class. They will join a team that made the NCAA quarterfinals last year.
“(The recruits) are technical players who play at an elite level,” said assistant coach Sam Greene. “But for us, it’s who’s physically and mentally prepared to step in as an 18 year old to a team that’s very, very deep and is trying to win a national championship.”
UCLA will return all but two players – but the team still lacks depth on the backline.
Freshman defender Maddi Desiano missed much of last season with an injury and reinjured herself this spring. Sophomore midfielder Delanie Sheehan filled the gap for the Bruins, starting almost every game at outside back.
Senior forward Hailie Mace also served sporadically as an outside back. The three-time All-Pac-12 honoree and 2017 All-American played in just 13 of 22 games last season due to national team duties, but still scored nine goals and logged six assists.
“(Mace) was a utility player – she played in the back and up top – so we’re really missing her in two spots,” said coach Amanda Cromwell.
Despite needing backs, UCLA’s incoming class includes just two defenders: Brianne Riley and Kylie Kerr. Cromwell said the plan is to potentially move other incoming players – including forward Rachel Lowe, midfielder Brecken Mozingo and midfielder Kali Trevithick – to the backline.
“The good thing is (the recruits) are versatile players, so they can potentially transition to an outside back – we still have need there for some depth,” Cromwell said. “Just with their athleticism, even though they’re not true defenders, … they are players that can play out wide, so we teach them some defending skills, and maybe we can make it work.”
Lowe has scored five goals in her 16 appearances for the Australian women’s national under-20 team, and Mozingo and Trevithick have both played in the U.S. youth system. Forward Mia Fishel – another incoming Bruin – competed for the U.S. in the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, where she scored one of the squad’s three goals.
Forward Sunshine Fontes scored the team’s other two goals in the tournament and has been praised as a top recruit after her 22 goals on the U-17s in 2018 – the second-most for a youth women’s national team player in history. But the Hawaii native tore her ACL and may redshirt her freshman season, Cromwell said.
UCLA will return the bulk of the offense that logged the most points in the country last season. Greene said incoming attackers will have time to fit into the system.
“We have a lot of attacking pieces, so it’s finding the right formation to put those pieces in place to be able to do their thing,” Greene said. “Having the mentality of ‘I’m a freshman, and I might not get the starting position that I’ve had, but can I fit as a piece of the puzzle?’ allows them to start being an impact player that grows within our system.”
The team will head to Italy to play in the World University Games this summer. Cromwell said the extra games will be the perfect opportunity to test out different lineups, players and formations.
“We’re going to have those games to try a lot of these players out,” Cromwell said. “We need it this summer probably more than ever.”