UCLA women’s soccer shoots past Northwestern to secure slot in Elite Eight
Sophomore defender Quincy McMahon carries the ball away from the opposing defense. McMahon was responsible for UCLA’s second goal Sunday to defeat Northwestern. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 4 Northwestern||0|
|No. 1 UCLA||2|
Nov. 20, 2022 9:49 p.m.
This post was updated Nov. 21 at 12:26 a.m.
The Bruins learned their lesson.
After tallying two losses to Stanford and USC at the hands of set piece goals, the blue and gold was determined to never allow another such point again.
Despite three corner kicks in the first half to test its defense, No. 1 seed UCLA women’s soccer (19-2-1, 9-2 Pac-12) held steady and shut out No. 4 seed Northwestern (16-5-2, 7-2-1 Big Ten) by a score of 2-0 at Wallis Annenberg Stadium on Sunday. The Sweet 16 success advances the blue and gold to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals, where it is set to host No. 3 seed Virginia.
Coach Margueritte Aozasa said the victory over their first-seeded opponent puts the Bruins in a good position for next weekend.
“Tonight was really important for us because it was kind of a statement,” Aozasa said. “I thought our team executed really well. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. So I was really proud of them.”
Just before the clock ticked into the sixth minute of play at Wallis Annenberg Stadium, the Bruins found themselves on the scoreboard.
Senior midfielder/forward Sunshine Fontes dribbled the ball downfield and sent it to graduate student defender Madelyn Desiano. Knocking down the Wildcat defender on the left side of the goal, Desiano swiftly passed the ball across the goal, where it bounced off another defender to find its way to the back of the net.
Junior forward Reilyn Turner was initially credited with the score, but after review, the goal went to Desiano for the graduate student’s second career goal.
According to Desiano, starting the game off hot helped the Bruins’ confidence, as they went into the rest of the contest with a strong momentum backing them.
“I think it is a sigh of relief, and it just gives us confidence for the rest of the game,” Desiano said. “We talk about trying to get a goal in the first 10 minutes to set the tone and to just put the other team on their heels a little bit.”
Graduate student Ally Cook nearly found the back of the net as well with a header to the crossbar, but goalkeeper Mia Raben successfully protected the rebound and held UCLA to one for the time being.
The Bruins’ defense, backed by graduate student goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy, did not go untested despite the blue and gold’s early success on offense. Three corner kicks from Northwestern set UCLA fans on edge, reminiscent of Stanford and USC’s game-winning set piece goals. But this time around on the pitch, the Bruins managed to hold the Wildcats scoreless.
Sophomore defender Quincy McMahon said the blue and gold has been practicing defending against set pieces, and seeing their hard work pay off on the pitch was gratifying.
“We’re really confident now because we’ve been working so hard on them,” McMahon said. “Really proud just to completely 180 from where we were and just have that mentality to go forward and win those balls.”
UCLA continued to lead on the offensive front as well, accumulating 12 shots to Northwestern’s six by the end of the matchup.
In Friday’s contest against the University of Central Florida, the Bruins collected 27 shots. Even though UCLA failed to reach the same quantity Sunday, Aozasa said their quality was more important.
“Our hope is that the chances we do create are really high-quality chances, which I thought you saw tonight,” Aozasa said. “We may not have had the firing range of 30, 35 shots, but the chances we had had a high scoring percentage.”
In the 65th minute, the Bruins landed on the scoreboard once again as McMahon pushed her way through the Wildcats’ defense to bring the score to 2-0 and clinch her third career goal.
In Aozasa’s eyes, McMahon’s efforts on defense and mark on the scoreboard made her the player of the weekend.
“When I first got here, it was clear how much of a hard worker Quincy is,” Aozasa said. “She just strives to get better. She loves every bit of her development. Our biggest thing was to help her with her decision making, and I think, as you’ve seen throughout this season, it’s just continuing to get better and better and better and better.”
With their No. 1 seeding, the Bruins are set to host an Elite Eight matchup against Virginia on Saturday.
McMahon said they’re excited to carry the same momentum with them into the next round for one more home game this season.
“We’re super excited about it and just so happy we get to be at home for the Elite Eight,” McMahon said. “It’s great for our coaches and really reflects what a great job they’ve done. I mean, we’ve been talking about this since the start of this season, so we’re happy about it.”