SAN DIEGO “”mdash; At the press conference following the Bruins’ loss to Loyola Marymount Friday, coach Brandon Brooks was asked to make an opening statement.
“How long do I have to prepare that statement?” a visibly defeated Brooks said before spending some time in silence trying to collect his thoughts.
Such was the mood among the shell-shocked Bruins after their season ended without an NCAA Championship for the first time in six years.
There wasn’t going to be any pool-jumping celebration this year. Only consolation matches remained for the Bruins, which didn’t console the team much.
Despite the loss that ended the meaningful part of their season, UCLA went on to do the best they could do after losing their first game, finishing in fifth place after defeating No. 7 seed Marist 14-3 and No. 5 seed Michigan 9-6.
Those games displayed the talent and firepower of the Bruins that many expected could lead them to the championship this year, not the youth and nervousness that plagued them in the game against LMU.
“Well, it’s another day and the sun is shining,” Brooks said after defeating Marist. “We’re still proud Bruins. I thought anytime that you have a big loss, you wonder how the team is going to respond and what kind of effort the team is going to give the next morning. I thought we did a good job.”
“It wasn’t hard to play (these last two games), but emotionally coming off of losing and being on the other side of the bracket is a little difficult, but it’s still the same game,” sophomore goalkeeper Caitlin Dement said.
For a program that has seen loads of success in recent years, this year’s Bruins were unable to capitalize on their postseason chances.
“We won MPSFs, we wanted to come out here and do our best and show everyone that wasn’t a fluke, but it didn’t happen, and sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” junior defender Kelly Easterday said.
At the end of the Tournament, it was USC coming out on top 10-9 over second place Stanford. Cal took third, and LMU fourth.
Brooks, who saw tremendous growth in his young team during the year, acknowledged that the growth process will have to carry on into next year. Key to that growth process is the fact that this team is slated to return every single player.
“We can definitely take this team to a whole other level,” Brooks said. “We can still grow a lot as a team. As far as the potential for this team? I think we’re about halfway. … I think with a good offseason and a good fall and just getting to know each other more, I think we’re going to be very solid next year.”
Junior Grace Reynolds, who put in three goals against Michigan to add to her already team-leading total, admitted that her team won’t forget losing to LMU any time soon, and echoed the sentiments of her coach.
“I’m excited for (the offseason), I’m looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to growing as a team even more,” she said. “We’re going to remember the LMU game for a very long time, if not forever, but we take that with us and we learn from it.”