For the Bruins’ final home game of the regular season, the lights of Wallis Annenberg Stadium will shine on their seniors.
Following Sunday’s 1-0 loss to No. 6 Stanford (11-2-4, 7-1-1 Pac-12), UCLA men’s soccer (10-7-0, 5-4-0) will face off against San Diego State (6-10-1, 1-8-0) to wrap up its season Thursday night. Before kickoff, the seniors will be honored for their accomplishments as Bruins.
Coach Jorge Salcedo said he takes pride in his departing players’ characters on and off the pitch.
“A lot of them are just consummate student-athletes, guys that are disciplined and dedicated to being the best young men they can be,” Salcedo said. “When you look back and reflect on each of them, there’s a lot of great memories and contributions, things people will never see that are tremendously impactful.”
Redshirt senior midfielder Joab Santoyo will be among those leaving the program after the NCAA tournament, having been a Bruin for five seasons. Santoyo described his tenure at UCLA as a roller coaster marked by two surgeries but said he was thankful for his time with the team.
“I’ve played with five different teams and with every team, I’ve grown to love it and have affection for every teammate,” Santoyo said. “I’m very thankful for the opportunities I was given from the coaching staff, for being able to be here, and I hope to end on a bright note.”
Freshman defender AJ Vasquez said Santoyo had a nurturing influence on this year’s group. Senior midfielder Anderson Asiedu also said being a role model helped him grow as an individual.
“I want to be a good leader, make sure I’m leading them down the right path and helping out guys on the field,” Asiedu said. “I want to be productive in my games and be a guy that people can look up to on and off the field, especially being a senior.”
In the teams’ previous matchup on Oct. 13, the Bruins scored in overtime to defeat the Aztecs by a score of 2-1 at the SDSU Sports Deck. UCLA registered nine total shots and four on goal, while also committing 15 fouls in the match.
Despite earning the win, Santoyo said UCLA would look to rework their tactics against San Diego State in hopes of increasing its possession and chance creation in the final third.
“We were pinned in a lot of the time with just not having enough options,” Santoyo said. “We want to just be sharper, keep our possession higher up the field and to be able to execute that.”
Salcedo said he is optimistic about Thursday’s matchup as well as his team’s position regarding the upcoming NCAA tournament. As of Wednesday, UCLA has an RPI of 21 and will look to strengthen it with a win Thursday.
“Quite frankly, I have a lot of confidence and optimism for the team,” Salcedo said. “To be able to perform the way we did the other night (against Stanford) … it gives me great confidence that this team can go on a run in the tournament.”