Women’s soccer preps for first-round face-off vs Lamar in NCAA tournament
Senior goalkeeper Teagan Micah has started and played the whole game in 14 of No. 2-seeded UCLA women’s soccer’s 19 games this year. She was out in early October, while fulfilling national team duties for Australia. (Joy Hong/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Friday, 5 p.m.
Wallis Annenberg Stadium
No TV info
By Cassidy Hunt
Nov. 15, 2019 2:07 a.m.
The Bruins will open their playoff run at home for the fourth straight year, but this time they will host an unfamiliar opponent.
No. 2-seeded UCLA women’s soccer (14-4-1, 8-3 Pac-12) will begin its 23rd NCAA tournament appearance against Lamar University (16-6-0, 10-1 Southland Conference) at Wallis Annenberg Stadium on Friday. This will be the first time in program history that the Bruins will meet the Cardinals.
“We don’t really know what to expect other than what we’ve seen on video,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “Playing us always brings the best out of other teams, so we know they’re gonna bring in the energy and go after it.”
The Cardinals overcame a 1-5 start to their season, finishing with a 16-6 record, a 12-game winning streak and a Southland Conference tournament title.
The Cardinals own the nation’s leading scorer – forward Esther Okoronkwo – who has scored 25 goals. Lamar forward Lucy Ashworth is ranked fourth in the nation for goals scored, with 18, and second for assists, with 15.
As a team, Lamar averaged 3.05 goals per game, the third highest average in the NCAA.
“We won’t have to adjust because we have great goal scorers in the Pac-12, too,” Cromwell said. “(The Cardinals) have a great goal scorer up top, but we just have to do what we do against teams that can counter – make sure our backs are prepared and are super alert. The Bruins, who have had players return to their roster steadily throughout the season, will ride a five-game winning-streak into the postseason.
Redshirt senior forward Anika Rodriguez suffered a season-ending injury last year but returned to the Bruins on Sept. 5, while sophomore midfielder Maricarmen Reyes made her season debut against Stanford on Oct. 19. Freshman forward Kali Trevithick left the Bruins’ Sept. 1 match with an injury and returned Nov. 8 against USC.
UCLA freshman midfielder Rachel Lowe, who has been on national team duty in Australia since the beginning of October, is back in Los Angeles just in time for the postseason.
Cromwell said that with the full roster, she is confident the Bruins have a solid mindset entering the postseason.
“It’s tournament time,” she said. “The goal of our season is to peak at the right time. Getting players back from injury, having all of our kids here now for a while, it’s kind of nice. Now we feel like a cohesive unit, which we want to carry forward.”
This is the third year in a row that the Bruins have earned the No. 2 seeding and the fourth year in a row that UCLA will open the tournament at home. The Bruins advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament or farther in each of the last three seasons – including a finals berth in 2017.
Last season, UCLA advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament, but fell to then-No. 1-seed UNC in penalty kicks.
The Bruins lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament only one time in program history in 1995. Regardless of UCLA’s previous first-round success, Cromwell said she’s only focused on Friday.
“The last thing we want to talk about is the end result,” Cromwell said. “The process and what we need to do (Friday) is what matters right now.”
UCLA will host Lamar in its first postseason match Friday at 6 p.m.