The Bruins will be visited by two Florida teams, including last year’s national champion.
No. 4 UCLA women’s soccer (2-0-0) will face off with reigning champion No. 1 Florida State (2-0-0) on Thursday at California Banc Stadium as part of the Battle at the Banc, in which No. 5 USC (2-0-0) will also play Florida (2-0-0). The Bruins will then take on the Gators on Sunday at Wallis Annenberg Stadium.
“We haven’t scouted them yet, but they are two of the best teams in the country, so we will have to be ready for that,” said coach Amanda Cromwell.
Last year, UCLA lost or tied just five of 22 games, including the postseason. The Seminoles and the Gators hosted the Bruins last September, beating them 4-1 and playing them to a 0-0 tie, respectively – but both matchups were without two UCLA starters, as then-senior forward/defender Hailie Mace of the U.S. Women’s National Team and then-junior midfielder Jessie Fleming of Canada were fulfilling national team duties.
This season, Florida’s forward Deanne Rose has logged three goals and an assist in the first two games of 2019. Rose played in just 10 games last year for the Gators due to national team commitments for Canada.
Florida State has been led by forward Denya Castellanos, who was a 2018 second team All-American with a team-high 10 goals and eight assists. Castellanos logged a goal and an assist in the Seminoles’ 2-0 win over TCU.
Midfielder/defender Heather Payne was on the receiving end of Castellanos’ assist, becoming the first Florida State player to score in her collegiate debut since Castellanos did it in 2016. Payne went on to notch an assist in her second game as well.
“(Florida State) won the national championship last year, so coming off of that I think they are prepared to make it a really good game,” said junior forward Ashley Sanchez. “They are super tactical and they execute their game plans really well.”
The Bruins are at nearly full strength after adding 11 freshman, a transfer, a few players who came back from injuries and others back from national team call-ups. Cromwell said redshirt senior forward Anika Rodriguez, who hasn’t played since last October when she suffered a knee injury, is questionable for Thursday’s game.
Freshman forward Mia Fishel notched two goals in her first two collegiate games. She said although she has yet to face a top-ranked team such as Florida State, she is prepared to make adjustments based on the level of play the Seminoles bring.
“I’m not sure what to expect, but I know that they are a hard team – really organized,” Fishel said. “I am going to have to read the game as it goes on … Being really critical every moment is going to matter.”
Sanchez was named the UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week after scoring one goal and logging two assists – taking part in three of the Bruins’ four goals in the opening two games.
But the junior said even with UCLA’s 4-0 victory margin last weekend, there were more opportunities to capitalize on.
“I think that next time we need to finish more of our chances,” Sanchez said. “Based on what we did today, I can tell that we saved some goals for our next game.”
The Bruins will face the Seminoles at 5:30 p.m. Thursday evening followed by a match between the Trojans and the Gators at 8 p.m.