When the Bruins and the Trojans face off this weekend, a second-place conference finish and NCAA tournament seed will be on the line.
No. 14 UCLA women’s soccer (13-4-1, 7-3-0 Pac-12) will host No. 9 USC (14-3-1, 7-3-0) at Wallis Annenberg Stadium on Friday night. The Bruins have not lost to the Trojans since 2015, with the last two matches going to overtime.
“This is a marquee matchup and it is one of the best college games of the year, including the postseason,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “It’s always a battle with ‘SC and it’s always a close game. The last couple of years it’s been golden goal, so we know it’s going to be fun.”
In the 2018 game, the Bruins scored two equalizers, including one in the 87th minute to send the game to overtime. Then-sophomore midfielder Olivia Athens scored the golden goal on a header for the Bruins to win the match and clinch second place in the conference.
UCLA and USC are tied for second place in the Pac-12 and are also playing for favorable seeding in the NCAA tournament, which will begin next week.
Last season, the then-No. 6-ranked Bruins’ win over the Trojans earned them a No. 2 seed in the tournament, while USC – which was ranked No. 2 before the rivalry match – pulled a No. 4 seed and did not advance beyond the third round of the NCAA tournament.
UCLA leads the all-time series between the Bruins and the Trojans, 25-6-1. USC’s most recent win was in 2015, which was the last time UCLA ended its season with a losing record and did not earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Senior defender Kaiya McCullough said she would like to finish her time as a Bruin without recording a single loss to the Trojans.
“This is important,” McCullough said. “I never want to lose to ‘SC as long as I’m here. That’s the most important streak.”
The last time UCLA hosted the crosstown rivalry match, the crowd that packed Drake Stadium broke the NCAA women’s soccer regular season single-game attendance record with 11,925 fans in attendance.
This season, the match will be held at Wallis Annenberg Stadium, which has a maximum capacity of 2,145.
McCullough said the more intimate setting will be an advantage for the Bruins.
“I think (the atmosphere) is going to be a lot more palpable,” McCullough said. “There will be a feeling of animosity toward the Trojans but definitely also the excitement of the crowd. We’ll be able to feel it a lot more on the field.”
The Bruins will ride a four-game conference winning streak into their final regular season matchup. For the second year in a row, UCLA opened its conference play with a pair of losses and fell to Stanford earlier in the season as well.
Redshirt senior forward Chloe Castaneda said the Bruins’ attitude going into their final regular season match will be a big factor for them.
“We have been keeping up our mentality, and that’s been a major change since earlier in the Pac-12,” Castaneda said. “We’ve talked about previous ‘SC games and how exciting they’ve been to get everyone into the right mindset.”
The Bruins and the Trojans will end their regular seasons and decide second place in the Pac-12 conference at 6 p.m. on Friday at Wallis Annenberg Stadium.
“I have high expectations,” Cromwell said. “We haven’t had to do much to get ready for this game. With the excitement factor, the fans and the energy level, it’s just going to be so fun.”