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UCLA women’s soccer falls to Clemson in shootout, ending NCAA tournament run

Senior midfielder Olivia Athens scored in the 87th minute to continue No. 3 seed UCLA women’s soccer’s run in the NCAA tournament, but No. 14 seed Clemson outlasted the blue and gold, taking the win in the penalty shootout, 6-5. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)

Women’s Soccer


No. 14 seed Clemson1
No. 3 seed UCLA1

By Cassidy Hunt

May 5, 2021 7:35 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that UCLA women’s soccer’s record is 13-2-2 and Clemson’s record is 13-4-1. In fact, UCLA’s record is 13-1-3 and Clemson’s record is 12-4-2.

This post was updated May 5 at 11:15 p.m.

The Bruins’ season came to an end in dramatic fashion.

No. 3 seed UCLA women’s soccer (13-1-3, 9-1-1 Pac-12) was upset by No. 14 seed Clemson (12-4-2, 5-3-0 ACC) in round three of NCAA Women’s College Cup on Wednesday. The Bruins forced two overtime periods and sudden-death penalty kicks but were unable to match the Tigers.

“In the game of soccer, the most dominant team doesn’t always win,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “This was some of the best soccer we’ve played all year and we deserve to be in this tournament still, so this is heartbreaking – soul-crushing.”

With 3:07 left in regulation, UCLA equalized after a shot by freshman forward Reilyn Turner hit the right goal post and fell at the head of senior midfielder Olivia Athens who scored on the rebound while Clemson goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff was on the ground.

“We believe that until the clock hits four zeros, there’s a chance,” Athens said. “It was win or go home, and I was in the right place at the right time.”

Despite failing to find the back of the net, the Bruins asserted control in the first half of the match – outshooting the Tigers 12-7 before halftime. The UCLA defense refused Clemson any shots on goal in the first 45 minutes, while the Bruins managed five shots on target.

The Tigers were the first on the board, when Clemson forward Sami Meredith sent a low ball from forward Maliah Morris over UCLA redshirt junior goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy’s head.

The Bruins attempted a quick response, with Turner tallying two shots within five minutes of the Tiger goal, neither of which made it past the Clemson defensive line.

“We always have an underlying sense that we’re going to score,” said redshirt senior defender Jacey Pederson. “We kept getting chances throughout the game, and we had to pull it together.”

A long ball from senior defender Lucy Parker – making her return to the starting 11 after a nearly two-month absence – put UCLA in scoring position just before the 73-minute mark, though senior midfielder Delanie Sheehan and sophomore forward Mia Fishel were unable to complete, with the latter sending the ball over the crossbar. Fishel’s shot was one of five attempted by the Bruins in just over five and a half minutes.

After Athens’ late equalizer, neither team was able to secure a golden goal victory in overtime, though the Tigers recorded the only shot in either the third or fourth period in the 97th minute, which soared just right of the Bruin goal.

“We don’t ever want it to go to PKs,” Cromwell said. “So, we were pushing to get a goal and they were pushing to go to PKs. There were two completely different philosophies in this game.”

A lightning delay took effect immediately after the end of overtime, forcing the Bruins to shelter for almost an hour before commencing with penalty kicks. 

Both teams went 5-of-5 in the initial round of penalties before redshirt sophomore midfielder Madelyn Desiano – making her first appearance in the game – attempted a shot to the lower left corner of the goal that was saved by Hancuff to end UCLA’s season. 

“We were knocking on the door all game long, and PKs are just PKs” Cromwell said. “That’s not soccer.”

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Cassidy Hunt | Sports staff
Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball and women's soccer beats. She was previously a reporter on the gymnastics, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.
Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball and women's soccer beats. She was previously a reporter on the gymnastics, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.
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