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Women’s soccer seeks to settle score with Stanford in NCAA semifinal

Senior midfielder Jessie Fleming has scored three goals and logged four assists in 21 games for No. 2 seed UCLA women’s soccer. She was named to the All Pac-12 First Team and was selected as a semifinalist for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's Soccer

Friday, 6:30 p.m.

San Jose, California

By Jake Greenberg-Bell

December 5, 2019 12:25 am

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated eight of last year's starters will play against Stanford on Friday. In fact, seven of last year's starters will play.

This post was updated Dec. 5 at 10:10 a.m.

The Bruins ended the 2017 season empty-handed.

Then-No. 2 seed UCLA women’s soccer placed second in the Pac-12 behind Stanford and lost again to the Cardinal in the national championship game.

Seven players from that UCLA starting lineup will get a second shot at Stanford this year.

No. 2 seed UCLA women’s soccer (18-4-1, 8-3-0 Pac-12) will get a chance to do what the 2017 team could not when it squares off against No. 1 seed Stanford (22-1-0, 11-0-0) in Avaya Stadium with a spot in the 2019 NCAA championship on the line.

“We know we can (win), but we have to work extremely hard together,” said junior midfielder Viviana Villacorta. “This is it, we have to … leave everything out on the field. Because when can we get a chance like this again?”

Both teams won their respective quarterfinal games by four goals, earning tickets to San Jose, California, where they will finish out the season. UCLA defeated No. 1 seed Florida State 4-0 as redshirt senior forward Chloe Castaneda and freshman forward Mia Fishel both recorded braces. Stanford beat No. 2 seed Brigham Young University 5-1 as four Cardinal players scored, led by forward Catarina Macario’s brace.

In her sophomore season last fall, Macario won the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, awarded to the best NCAA female soccer player. This year, Macario has picked up where she left off by shattering program records on her way to an NCAA-leading 32 goals and 23 assists.

Her 87 total points not only lead the NCAA, but are also 27 points above the next best player’s total. In comparison, UCLA’s highest scoring player is Fishel, with 31.

But when Macario faced off against the Bruins in conference play this season, she was unable to score or assist. The Bruins’ defensive feat – limiting Macario to zero points – was only completed by opposing teams three times all season.

The Bruins still lost the game 1-0 on Oct. 19, and ended up seceding the conference title to the Cardinal just like they had in 2017. Just as was the case last month, stopping Macario on Friday does not necessarily mean stopping the Cardinal, said coach Amanda Cromwell.

Cromwell said UCLA will have to keep an eye on forward Madison Haley and forward Sophia Smith as well.

“Madison Haley up top is very dangerous, Sophia Smith on the flank, super speedy; so they have a lot of weapons, so you can’t necessarily just focus on one,” Cromwell said. “They have good players all over the field just like we do, so it’s kind of a battle of the titans.”

Cromwell also noted that UCLA has benefited from a deep roster since the return of sophomore midfielder Maricarmen Reyes and freshman forward Kali Trevithick, which allowed Cromwell to rest other players throughout the postseason.

Senior midfielder Jessie Fleming has averaged about 59 minutes per game in the postseason, after averaging more than 87 minutes per game in the regular season.

“It’s just been a huge part of our team throughout the tournament because … it allows people to have rest,” Fleming said. “It’s just been really cool to see people grow throughout the season and then what a relief it is to bring in all these fantastic players. It just tires other teams out so it’s definitely an advantage for us.”

The Bruins will have the advantage of experience against the Cardinal, as they return seven players from the 2017 national championship starting lineup in comparison to Stanford’s two.

The senior class will get a chance for the last word against Stanford in this year’s semifinal matchup, which kicks off Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

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Jake Greenberg-Bell | Sports contributor
Greenberg-Bell is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's soccer beat.
Greenberg-Bell is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's soccer beat.
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