UCLA women’s soccer draws No. 2 seed in NCAA tournament following Pac-12 victory
In her fifth and final season with No. 3 UCLA women’s soccer, graduate student midfielder Marley Canales is set to begin another postseason run with the Bruins, who enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)
By Jay Fenn
Nov. 9, 2021 4:12 p.m.
The dance floor is set.
No. 3 UCLA women’s soccer (16-0-3, 8-0-3 Pac-12) had its postseason draw revealed during the NCAA selection show Monday afternoon. The only team to go undefeated in the regular season, the blue and gold earned a No. 2 seed and will face Big West Conference champions UC Irvine (15-5-0, 8-2-0 Big West) on Friday evening at Wallis Annenberg Stadium in the first round.
With a win over UC Irvine, UCLA would host the winner of Wisconsin and Butler in the second round Nov. 19.
UCLA is coming off a 3-1 victory over crosstown rival No. 11 USC on Friday to win its second consecutive Pac-12 title and remain unbeaten on the season.
Coach Amanda Cromwell said winning the Pac-12 gives the Bruins confidence heading into the tournament.
“Winning the Pac-12 is hard,” Cromwell said. “We just put ourselves in good spots … because these kids never say die, and we always have the ability to score. We always know that.”
USC was one of four Pac-12 schools to make the tournament including UCLA, with Stanford and Washington State also qualifying.
The Cardinal landed in the Bruins’ region of the bracket, setting up a potential matchup between the conference rivals in the third round. Before it can play UCLA, however, Stanford will have to face off against defending champion Santa Clara in the opening round, a matchup between the two previous national champions.
As the No. 2 seed in their region, the Bruins will have home-field advantage at least through the third round, with all of their games being played at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. After a sold-out game against the Trojans to close out the regular season, graduate student midfielder Olivia Athens said playing in front of the Bruin faithful will be an advantage for the blue and gold in the tournament.
“Just to have (fans back), it’s amazing,” Athens said. “To have them supporting us we felt them, and they made a difference for sure.”
Should UCLA make it through the third round, it will have to travel to Durham, North Carolina, to face No. 1 seed Duke. Duke is the only team in the country to take down Florida State, the top-ranked team in the tournament.
Graduate student midfielder Marley Canales said the Bruins are playing their best soccer of the year right now and believes they are more than capable of finishing the season as undefeated national champions.
“Going into the tournament, we have great momentum. … We’re peaking at the right time,” Canales said. “We know we are so capable of playing and being one of the best teams out there, so we’re just going to keep this rolling.”
Having won one national championship in school history, which came in 2013 during Cromwell’s inaugural season as head coach, UCLA boasts a 69-19-6 all-time NCAA tournament record and has advanced to the College Cup twice in the past four seasons. UCLA’s 2020-2021 season came to a premature end when it fell to Clemson in the second round of the tournament.
Set to embark on the final tournament run of her collegiate career, Athens said entering the postseason with a 26-game unbeaten streak and a second consecutive Pac-12 championship gives the blue and gold hope for a national crown.
“We have a lot of momentum. We’re riding on a high right now,” Athens said. “We have a taste at one championship, so now we’re all focused on the next one.”