Women’s soccer prepares for second-round NCAA tournament matchup with Iowa
Coming off an ACL tear that sidelined her during her true freshman season, forward Sunshine Fontes scored five goals and recorded three assists for UCLA women’s soccer. The No. 3-seeded Bruins’ NCAA tournament runs begins Friday against Iowa. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)
Buies Creek, North Carolina
April 29, 2021 3:29 p.m.
The Bruins will face competition from across the country for the first time since the pandemic, starting with a team they have never before played in program history.
No. 3 seed UCLA women’s soccer (12-1-2, 9-1-1 Pac-12) will travel to Buies Creek, North Carolina, to start its run in the Division I NCAA Tournament with a second-round match against Iowa (7-8-1, 2-8-1 Big Ten) on Friday. As the No. 3 seed, the Bruins earned a bye for the first round, while the Hawkeyes opened their run by eliminating host-school Campbell (8-4-1, 6-2-1 Big South) on Tuesday.
Coach Amanda Cromwell said despite missing the opportunity to host a game or two as in years past, she is comfortable with the setup of the tournament since the central location limits excessive travel and quick turnarounds.
“I would have loved to have played at (Wallis-Annenberg Stadium) – we love that stadium and the vibe we have,” Cromwell said. “We’ve done really well on the road and have prepared well on the road. We’ve put up with some crazy travel too. … And we’ve been playing Friday-Sunday games so this is going to be nice with more rest between games.”
UCLA is undefeated on the road this season, with its only loss coming to Arizona State at home March 26, while Iowa is 3-5 in away contests but 3-0 at neutral locations. Both teams hold 2021 conference titles, with the Bruins winning the Pac-12 regular-season crown and the Hawkeyes winning a program-first Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa will enter Friday’s game riding a five-game winning streak. UCLA, however, is coming off its only conference tie of the season to crosstown rival USC and a narrow overtime win over Stanford.
Redshirt freshman forward Sunshine Fontes said the two close games have shaped the Bruins’ training plan heading into the postseason.
“Stanford and USC were able to expose us in some areas, and that’s just our focus moving forward,” Fontes said. “(We’re) making sure we correct those for the tournament so we don’t have any more close games.”
Fontes and fellow freshmen forwards Reilyn Turner and Kaila Novak were all named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team after the trio combined for 15 of UCLA’s 33 regular-season goals. In comparison, Iowa has scored a total of 10 team goals for the year.
Aside from their rookie trio, the Bruins also boast 17 veterans with postseason experience, including senior midfielder Marley Canales – who missed last year’s College Cup run because of a torn ACL suffered earlier in the season. Her return to the pitch this year earned Canales her first conference recognition, a spot on the All-Pac-12 Second Team.
In addition to having played in five NCAA tournament games, Canales has long served as the Bruins’ penalty kick specialist. As a freshman in 2017, she made the winning penalty during a shootout against Duke to send UCLA to the College Cup final. Canales also scored three of her four goals this season from the spot.
“I have always enjoyed being under that pressure – I grew up not shying away from it to prepare me for these moments,” Canales said. “It’s never easy because it is a very high-pressure moment, but I welcome that.”
While the Bruins haven’t been forced to a penalty shootout since Nov. 24, 2018, the tournament’s single-elimination format means it is a possibility this week.
UCLA’s postseason will kick off at noon at Eakes Athletics Complex.