The Bruins are headed out of Southern California for the first time this season, with a chance to extend their undefeated record.
No. 2 UCLA women’s soccer (4-0) will face Santa Clara (1-3) at Stevens Stadium on Thursday night. The Bruins bested the Broncos in a spring friendly April 20, said junior midfielder Marley Canales, but the all time series between the teams is tied 5-5-2.
“We went up there and we had a very competitive game against them (in the spring),” Canales said. “They’re strong, they’re technical – they’re a good team led by a great head coach – so it’s going to be yet another great, tough game for us.”
Freshman midfielder Izzy D’Aquila is the top scorer for Santa Clara, with five goals and one assist in her first four collegiate matches. The Broncos’ roster also boasts two players who were named to the 2019 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List in midfielders Kelcie Hedge and Alex Loera.
Santa Clara started the preseason ranked No. 13 before falling to then-No. 12 Texas A&M at home, and then to Wake Forest and then-No. 10 Duke on the road. The Broncos lost all three games by a single goal and forced the Blue Devils into overtime.
“(The Broncos) have been in every game and they’ve actually probably had better stats in some of their losses, so the score doesn’t tell the whole story,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “I think they’ll be desperate (for a win), and it will affect their confidence, maybe.”
UCLA will enter Thursday’s match having allowed only one goal. Senior goalkeeper Teagan Micah was named the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week and junior defender Delanie Sheehan was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after their performances against reigning national champion then-No. 1 Florida State and Florida last weekend.
Micah earned the title for the eighth time in her career – a conference record. The Aussie picked up her 29th shutout, became the fourth Bruin to reach 50 wins and advanced to third place in all-time saves for a UCLA keeper, with 206, in the match against the Gators.
“I want to work on looking after the body, staying healthy and, obviously, the chemistry with the back line a little bit more,” Micah said. “But (the goal is to) just keep winning and keep getting clean sheets.”
Last season, UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA tournament with a quarterfinal-loss to North Carolina in penalty kicks. After climbing two spots in the rankings, the Bruins are ranked No. 2 this week, behind only the Tar Heels.
But with the depth added to the roster during the offseason and UCLA’s rapid rise in the national polls, Canales said this year is different.
“We’ve come into this season very motivated and we have the most special group that I have seen – we are so many players deep and every single player on the bench could be starting every game,” Canales said. “In every position, we are dangerous and effective. … Everyone’s effort just affects everyone else’s and, it’s just, we use the word ‘infectious.’”
UCLA will take on Santa Clara at 7:30 p.m.