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UCLA men’s soccer edges out Cal Baptist, advances to NCAA Tournament Round of 32

Redshirt senior forward Kevin Diaz celebrates his goal in the 70th minute. Diaz now lands in a tie for first in number of goals on the season for the Bruins, knotted with redshirt sophomore forward Jose Contell who scored the blue and gold’s first goal of the night. (Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin)

men’s soccer


Cal Baptist1
UCLA2

By Lexi Grimes

Nov. 17, 2022 7:50 p.m.

For the first time all season, the Bruins’ starting goalkeeper wasn’t suited up.

But five saves from the second-string keeper freshman Sam Joseph and four shots on goal proved enough to punch the blue and gold’s ticket to the Round of 32. 

UCLA men’s soccer (11-6-1, 4-4-1 Pac-12) scraped out a 2-1 victory against Cal Baptist University (11-7-3, 4-3-2 WAC) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, its final game of the season at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. With the win, the Bruins will face No. 6 Clemson in South Carolina on Sunday.

Both teams got looks early, with the Lancers logging two shots in the first three minutes of the match. Cal Baptist was also the first of the teams to get on the board after a shot from striker Luis Mueller snuck between the legs of Joseph in the seventh minute. 

Joseph was in the net because of an injury to starting sophomore goalkeeper Nate Crockford. However, coach Ryan Jorden said he was not nervous about giving the rookie his first start in a playoff game.

“UCLA is goalkeeper university so our second guy, Sam Joseph, should be better than anybody else’s first goalkeeper,” Jorden said. “Preparation was no problem. He had to play because we had an injury, so he got his opportunity today, and he stepped in and I thought he did pretty well.”

But the Bruins found an equalizer less than two minutes later, with redshirt sophomore forward Jose Contell finding the top of the net off an assist from junior defender Tommy Silva.

Redshirt sophomore forward Jose Contell winds up to strike the ball. Contell put the Bruins on the scoreboard in the eighth minute, logging his fourth goal of the season. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

UCLA continued to be aggressive on the ball for the rest of the half, which affected the tempo of the contest. The blue and gold maintained possession of the ball for the majority of the first 45 minutes, but were also called offsides five times. Both squads were on the board within 10 minutes of the matchup, but neither found the back of the net for the remainder of the first half. 

In the second frame, Cal Baptist once again beat the Bruins to the first shot on goal, but Joseph saved the rebound after the ball ricocheted off the top bar of the goal. The rookie logged four saves in his first collegiate appearance.

70 minutes into the contest, the Bruins assumed the lead when redshirt senior forward Kevin Diaz crossed the ball into the right corner of the net from inside the 18. Diaz added another two points to his eight on the season, and his goal proved to be the difference-maker in Thursday night’s matchup.  

The game brought on a bit of dèjá vu for UCLA, as last season Diaz and Contell were also the players to score the two goals and give the Bruins their first-round playoff victory. Diaz said it felt great to be able to come up big for UCLA when it mattered.

“It feels amazing,” Diaz said. “I know last year was the same thing – first-round home game – and I actually got the game-winner as well so it feels amazing.”

With this win, UCLA will move onto the second round of the tournament and looks to flip the script from last year when it was eliminated by Duke at the same stage in the postseason. Although the Bruins will be entering as underdogs, Contell said that the team is not letting that affect its mentality heading into the matchup.

“Right now we face every game thinking that it is going to be our last game,” Contell said. “The only thing that we talk about is (to) just enjoy it. Die for each other on the field because at the end of the day we are a family.”

The Bruins will battle the Tigers at 6 p.m. on Sunday. 

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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, men's soccer 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, men's soccer and women's volleyball beats.
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