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UCLA women’s soccer players compete internationally ahead of regular season play

Rising sophomore defender Lilly Reale dribbles the ball down the field. This summer, Reale participated in the Sud Ladies Cup for Team USA. (Marc-Anthony Rosas/Daily Bruin)

By Jay Fenn

July 10, 2022 3:44 p.m.

This post was updated July 10 at 11:27 p.m.

The Bruins’ season is set to commence in one month, but that hasn’t stopped five current and future Bruins from competing on the national stage.

UCLA women’s soccer rising sophomore defender Lilly Reale and incoming freshman goalkeeper Neeku Purcell were a part of the United States U-20 team that won the 2022 Sud Ladies Cup at the end of June. The tournament – which was held in Bouches-du-Rhône in Southern France this year – features the top U-20 teams in the world.

Reale said her international competition helped her develop her craft entering the upcoming collegiate season.

“Every time you go to camp, it’s a really helpful experience playing against some of the best players from other countries too. It’s an experience that’s unlike any other, and I think it’s super special,” Reale said. “For me, going to camp obviously helped me figure out what I need to work on and what’s maybe working.”

Reale and Purcell had the opportunity to compete against two fellow Bruins en route to their championship, facing off against incoming freshmen forwards Bridgette Marin-Valencia and America Frias, who both represented Mexico.

In Mexico’s opening match of the tournament against the Netherlands, Frias scored the opening goal, which happened to be the game winner in the 1-0 victory. However, Frias’ squad would later fall to the U.S. by a score of 3-0.

Reale said she enjoyed watching her teammates compete, adding that she was especially excited seeing Frias’ game-winning goal in person.

“We’re (Reale and Purcell were) kind of talking about, ‘Oh, she’s really good at this’ or ‘she’s really good at that,’ so it was just super fun and exciting to watch them play well and earn those minutes and produce good performances,” Reale said.

Rising graduate student midfielder Maricarmen Reyes will also be representing Mexico, but she will be playing on the senior team in the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship, which serves as a qualifier for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2024 Olympics. Reyes has scored six goals across her seven appearances representing El Tri.

First-year UCLA coach Margueritte Aozasa said Reyes playing a variety of roles with Mexico will help her take on a larger role for the younger Bruins squad.

“Anytime you can experience different roles on a team, whether you’re an older player or a younger player, … that’s going to continue to just add to your fabric, and you can bring those experiences back to the team,” Aozasa said. “Mari’s a younger player on the Mexican national team. Well, that’s going to help her relate to our younger players.”

Aozasa said she is looking forward to when all the players rejoin the team and bring back everything they have learned from their international stints.

“Anytime you can play in a competitive, international arena, it just adds to your experience,” Aozasa said. “Play under pressure, play on a big stage, play where there’s a lot riding on every game, and bring that maturity back to our team.”

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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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