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Women’s soccer looks to Pac-12 championship after stumbles in conference play

Junior defender Brianne Riley scored her first career goal Friday as No. 8 UCLA women’s soccer earned its fourth Pac-12 win of the season. The Bruins sit in second place in the conference with five games remaining. (Jack Stenzel/Daily Bruin)

By Jay Fenn

Oct. 20, 2021 2:00 p.m.

The Bruins will have ground to make up in order to win their second consecutive Pac-12 championship.

After finishing nonconference play with an 8-0-0 record, No. 8 UCLA women’s soccer (12-0-2, 4-0-2 Pac-12) has not been perfect in conference play. The Bruins drew with the fifth and 11th place teams in the conference and now find themselves four points back of the first-place Trojans.

Although UCLA has not seen the same success in conference play it saw in the opening eight games, junior defender Brianne Riley said the blue and gold’s confidence is still there.

“We want to become better as the season goes on and hit a point to where we are all on the same page,” Riley said.

The Bruins’ first-half conference slate saw them face the four bottom teams in the conference. UCLA’s second-half schedule will feature the three other top-four teams, including No. 14 Stanford and No. 5 USC.

Redshirt senior forward Kennedy Faulknor said it does not matter who the Bruins face – every team is going to bring its best to knock off the defending conference champions.

“Every team wants to beat us,” Faulknor said. “Everybody’s going to come hard, so we just got to bring that energy every game.”

Unlike last year, however, UCLA no longer controls its own destiny to win the conference. With USC having a four-point advantage in the standings, the Bruins will need to get some help in order to pass the Trojans.

UCLA will face off against USC on Nov. 5 to close out the regular season with a chance to win consecutive Pac-12 championships for the first time since 2014.

Freshman defender Lilly Reale said if the Bruins continue to play the style of soccer they have played with all year, she is confident the blue and gold will take home the conference crown.

“If we just keep filling our roles as a team, that’s going to be really important, and we’re on the right track to doing that and figuring out formations that work for us,” Reale said. “With how possessive we’ve been lately, that’s going to be a really big component too. If we just keep pushing the pedal down like we have, it’s going to be a really good stretch for us to the end.”

Coming off a 4-1 victory against then-No. 24 Oregon State, UCLA will see the same amount of ranked opponents in the last two weeks of the season as it saw in its first 14 games.

Coach Amanda Cromwell, who has won three Pac-12 championships during her time with the Bruins, said the way to win the title this year is straightforward.

“We got to win games,” Cromwell said.

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Jay Fenn | Sports staff
Fenn is currently a Sports staffer on the baseball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's soccer beat and a contributor on the beach volleyball and men's and women's golf beats.
Fenn is currently a Sports staffer on the baseball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's soccer beat and a contributor on the beach volleyball and men's and women's golf beats.
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