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UCLA men’s soccer to face off against Gauchos in NCAA tournament

Redshirt freshman midfielder Tucker Lepley attempts a corner kick. Lepley will make his postseason debut this week. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)

Men's soccer

UC Santa Barbara
Thursday, 7 p.m.

Wallis Annenberg Stadium
UCLA Live Stream-2

By Lexi Grimes

Nov. 18, 2021 12:16 a.m.

The Bruins are set to kick off their first NCAA tournament run since 2018.

No. 22 UCLA men’s soccer (10-6-1, 5-4-1 Pac-12) will host UC Santa Barbara (12-4-4, 6-1-2 Big West) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday evening. The game marks the Bruins’ first tournament appearance in three years and their first postseason appearance under coach Ryan Jorden since he joined the program in 2019.

UCLA’s regular-season win percentage of .618 is the highest mark for the program since 2014 and represents the first time Jorden’s team has not finished the season with a sub-.500 record.

Jorden said playing in the tournament is no different than the regular season and that his team will be keeping the same game plan they have had all season.

“It doesn’t really change our approach, we’re doing the same thing we’ve done with every opponent in the nonconference games this year,” said Jorden. “You’re getting a chance to look at video, you’re getting a sense of who they are as a team and preparing your team accordingly.”

As the higher seed, the Bruins secured home-field advantage and will host the Gauchos at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. UCLA is 8-3 when playing at home, compared to 2-3-1 while on the road. UCSB, by comparison, is 4-3-2 on the road but has not been able to secure a victory in its past two away games.

The Bruins are heading into the tournament coming off a two-game win streak, including a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Oregon State on Nov. 7. The Gauchos have also won two games in a row, with both victories coming in the Big West tournament to secure them the title.

Sophomore defender Tommy Silva said that while the momentum will help UCLA, there is still work for the team to do before the tournament.

“It was really nice to end the regular season with two big wins and to get some good momentum before the tournament,” Silva said. “There’s still a lot of things we have to improve, so we’re trying not to get overconfident and just be levelheaded going into the tournament.”

UCLA and UCSB have competed against each other 44 times previously, with the Bruins leading the all-time series with a record of 35-6-3. The two teams also have some history within the NCAA tournament, as they have met twice in the postseason.

The first time the Bruins and Gauchos competed against each other in the tournament was in 2006 when then-No. 8 seed UCLA lost to unseeded UCSB in the championship game. When the teams met again three years later in the round of 16, the Bruins were able to secure a 2-1 victory over the Gauchos.

Redshirt freshman midfielder Tucker Lepley said that at the end of the day, the team is thrilled to have the opportunity to compete in the tournament and hopes to be playing for a while.

“The group is just really excited to get a chance to do something special,” Lepley said. “Talking to some of the older guys on the team, it’s also their first time getting into the tournament. So hopefully we can make a run for them.”

UCLA will face USCB on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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Lexi Grimes | Sports reporter
Grimes is currently a Sports reporter on the men's soccer beat. She was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats.
Grimes is currently a Sports reporter on the men's soccer beat. She was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats.
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