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UCLA women’s soccer finds strength in adversity with 4 shutouts after Stanford

Coach Margueritte Aozasa stands near the UCLA women’s soccer team. Aozasa has led the Bruins to a 17-1 start in her first year as head coach. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

By Jay Fenn

Nov. 1, 2022 10:03 p.m.

In 2021, the Bruins went undefeated through the first 19 games of the season only to fall for the first time all year in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

During the 2022 campaign, No. 1 UCLA women’s soccer started its season in a very similar manner, winning all 13 of its games to open the season. However, on Oct. 14, the blue and gold was defeated by Stanford 1-0 in its first and only loss.

Sophomore defender Lilly Reale said the Bruins flipped a switch after the defeat at the hands of the Cardinal.

“It’s all about how you can take it (the loss) with grace and as a learning lesson,” Reale said after the Stanford game. “It was a good moment for us to talk as a team and come together and know that we’re not going to take this loss lightly and learn from it as much as we can.”

After the Stanford contest, coach Margueritte Aozasa said she noticed a change in attitude from her team, sensing it was clear UCLA couldn’t wait to get back onto the pitch to avenge its lone loss.

“The team wants to train tomorrow, right?” Aozasa said after the loss. “They wish we had a game on Sunday so that they can redeem themselves.”

Unlike in 2021, however, the Bruins would have a chance to respond to adversity, and that is exactly what they have done.

A week after the loss, UCLA reminded everyone why it is the No. 1 team in the country. The blue and gold traveled east to compete against Colorado and Utah, returning with 6-0 and 3-0 victories, respectively.

The following week, UCLA returned to Wallis Annenberg Stadium to go up against Washington State and Washington and again emerged with a pair of shutout victories.

Reale – who scored the game-winning goal in the game against Washington State – echoed Aozasa’s sentiments on the team’s attitude shift following the Stanford matchup.

“We’re kind of burying that loss and moving on with it,” Reale said after the Bruins beat the Cougars. “You look at these games in the postseason, and some of them come down to set pieces or 1-0 wins. We know that’s going to be a challenge, and it’s something that we’re looking to figure out before we get to that point.”

UCLA’s only two losses in the last two seasons have been 1-0 defeats.

Although set pieces weren’t the cause of the lone goal in the match against the Anteaters last season, they have proven to cause the most trouble for the blue and gold this season. In their loss to the Cardinal, Stanford’s game-winning goal came as a result of a corner kick.

Senior forward Sunshine Fontes said the Bruins were motivated after the loss to fix any problems with corner and free kicks.

“We’re a lot more serious with set pieces,” Fontes said. “I mean, that’s how Stanford scored, so that has been more of our focus. … Just doing anything to keep the ball out of the net.”

Aozasa acknowledged she is proud of the growth she has seen in her team over the past few weeks.

“It’s been nice to see over the last two weeks just how focused our team is,” Aozasa said. “The intensity, the attention to detail when we work on set pieces, when we work on finishing – those types of things. Where before maybe we’re going through the motions a little bit, now is very locked in.”

With a change in mentality resulting from the Stanford loss, UCLA is eyeing the upcoming NCAA tournament, hoping for its first national championship since 2013.

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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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