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Women’s soccer defeats California in front of sold-out crowd to start Pac-12 play

Graduate Student midfielder Maricarmen Reyes sends the ball down the field. Reyes scored two of the Bruins’ four goals Friday. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's Soccer

No. 1 UCLA4

By Jay Fenn

Sept. 24, 2022 10:13 a.m.

This post was updated Sept. 25 11:56 p.m.

In front of a sold-out crowd, the Bruins started Pac-12 play with a bang.

No. 1 UCLA women’s soccer (9-0-0, 1-0-0 Pac-12) began its Pac-12 slate with a 4-2 victory over California (5-2-3, 0-1-0 Pac-12), marking the start of the Bruins’ quest for a third consecutive Pac-12 title.

Coach Margueritte Aozasa said despite its undefeated nonconference record, the blue and gold kept a fresh mindset entering conference play.

“We talked about how this is a new season, our winning record up till now is great, but it’s, in some sense, doesn’t really matter,” Aozasa said. “So it was great to start conference off on the right foot.”

The Bruins generated a lot of chances early, starting in the fourth minute with sophomore forward Lexi Wright creating a one-on-one opportunity with the Golden Bear’s goalkeeper Angelina Anderson, but Anderson would collect with the save. In the 16th minute, senior forward Sunshine Fontes would fire a shot of her own, just missing the top right corner of the goal by mere inches.

However, Cal got on the board first, thanks to a goal from forward Karlie Lema in the 21st minute. The deficit marked the first time UCLA has trailed in a match since it played then-No. 1 North Carolina on Sept. 4.

Aozasa said although the Bruins haven’t faced many deficits this season, she wasn’t worried.

“It’s really important as a staff that we stay calm and that we don’t panic,” Aozasa said. “I only panic if we haven’t created any chances. Luckily tonight that wasn’t the case. … This group has shown time and time again that they respond.”

The Bruins didn’t trail for long because three minutes later, graduate student midfielder Maricarmen Reyes found the back of the net off a pass from fellow graduate student midfielder Madelyn Desiano to tie the score. In the 32nd minute, Reyes struck again, this time tapping in a pass from freshman midfielder Sofia Cook to grant the Bruins a 2-1 advantage. The brace represents Reyes’ third and fourth goals of the season, which ties her all-time season-high in six games thus far.

“We’re the number one team in the nation, so we’re going to do everything we can to come back, and that’s what we did,” Reyes said. “We were like, ‘We’re the better team, and we’ve got to prove it.'”

Graduate student forward Ally Cook added to the Bruins’ lead in the 58th minute, registering her second goal in a UCLA uniform.

Cal responded three minutes later after sophomore defender Quincy McMahon committed a foul in the box. The Golden Bear’s midfielder Keely Roy stepped up and drilled her shot past graduate student goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy to bring the score to 3-2.

Sophomore defender Jayden Perry said she shares a strong bond with Reale and McMahon and thinks they do a great job working together on the backline.

“I’m roommates with them, so our chemistry is so close,” Perry said. “It’s honestly awesome playing alongside of them.”

Freshman forward Bridgette Marin-Valencia iced the game in the 83rd minute with her the first collegiate goal to make it 4-2.

Friday also marked the first sell-out crowd at Wallis Annenberg Stadium since UCLA faced off against USC last season in a match to determine the Pac-12 champion.

Aozasa was extremely thankful to see all the support the Bruins are garnering and hopes they can continue to see it throughout the rest of the season. As fans stood outside the stadium in the bushes watching, and the band played a victory tune, the Bruins walked off the field waving to fans to express their gratitude.

“Thank you to the crowd, thank you to the band, thank you to everyone who put in the effort to publicize the game and get people here,” Aozasa said. “It made a huge difference to have the force of the crowd behind you. Sometimes when we talk about momentum, that’s another way that we can gain momentum and control the game.”

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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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