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Women’s soccer kicks off 2022 season with exhibition match against Fresno State

Graduate student goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy kicks the ball. The regular season for the Bruins begins Thursday with a match against Iowa. (Sakshi Joglekar/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Grace Whitaker

Aug. 13, 2022 6:09 p.m.

This post was updated on 8/14/2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Summer is coming to a close, and the Bruins are about to take the field.

No. 13 UCLA women’s soccer will begin its 2022 season with an exhibition game Saturday against Fresno State at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. This marks the Bruins’ first match with new head coach Margueritte Aozasa leading the pack after she was hired as the sixth head coach in program history in December 2021.

After seven seasons as an assistant coach for Stanford, Aozasa took her talents down to Westwood for the first head coaching position of her career. The former Cardinal coach said she is pleased with the team so far, specifically because of the players’ attitudes towards the upcoming start of the season.

“The group’s got incredible energy. Every single player is bought in,” Aozasa said. “Every single player, I think, is really excited for the season. Every single one has come to each practice ready to learn, ready to compete, just kind of ready to prove themselves.”

The 2021 season for the blue and gold concluded with an early loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament to UC Irvine. Despite winning the past two Pac-12 championships, UCLA has not claimed an NCAA title since 2013.

Graduate student goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy said the team has learned from last year’s season exit and is excited to move forward this season.

“Obviously, that was tough,” Brzykcy said. “But, again, we’ve learned from it, and we’ve just been … developing as a unit.”

The team will head into this season without last year’s leading scorer, forward Mia Fishel, who was responsible for 12 of 40 goals during the 2021 season. Coupled with the new coaching staff and the top-ranked freshman class in the country, the Bruins are taking the field as a new team.

Junior forward Reilyn Turner said the coaches have created a very supportive environment.

“They’ve done a really good job at encouraging us to take risks on the field and also valuing the ball,” Turner said. “It’s a really good balance that they have created for us on and off the field.”

Throughout the offseason, five Bruins have traveled internationally to compete in a variety of tournaments. Four players made the journey to France to compete in the 2022 Sud Ladies Cup. Within the group, sophomore defender Lilly Reale and freshman goalkeeper Neeku Purcell played for Team USA and ultimately won the tournament, landing themselves a spot in the U-20 Women’s World Cup, which will take place from Aug. 10-28.

The duo is facing off against fellow freshman forwards Bridgette Marin-Valencia and America Frias in both the tournaments as they compete for Team Mexico. Graduate student midfielder Maricarmen Reyes also traveled to Mexico to participate in the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship over the summer.

Turner said the team is very proud of its representatives in the international tournaments.

“It’s really cool having players on our team who are playing internationally for the World Cup and having them come back,” Turner said. “It should be fun having them all back, and I can’t wait for our team to be complete.”

After its exhibition game Saturday, UCLA will officially kick off its regular season, beginning with a game against Iowa on Thursday.

Aozasa said exhibition games are very helpful because they allow the coaches to experiment with different game situations.

“It’s like a dress rehearsal, which is really nice,” Aozasa said. “I think one big thing is it allows our players to kind of get the jitters out in that first game of the year.”

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Grace Whitaker | Assistant Sports editor
Whitaker is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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