UCLA men’s soccer anticipates NCAA Tournament Round of 16 matchup against Vermont
Junior defender Tommy Silva dribbles the ball before an oncoming defender. Silva leads the Bruins in assists with eight on the season. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)
Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
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By Nick Darrow
Nov. 26, 2022 12:02 p.m.
For the first time since 2014, the Bruins enter a Sweet 16 matchup.
UCLA men’s soccer (12-6-1, 4-4-1 Pac-12) will play Vermont (15-3-2, 5-1-1 AE) on Saturday at Virtue Field in Burlington, Vermont in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. After victories against Cal Baptist and No. 6 Clemson, the Bruins are making their first appearance in the Round of 16 in eight years, where they eventually lost in the National Championship to Virginia.
After beginning both tournament contests down 1-0, the Bruins answered the Lancers and the Tigers with two goals. Against Cal Baptist, redshirt senior forward Kevin Diaz scored the game-winner in the 69th minute, and redshirt sophomore midfielder Tucker Lepley found the back of the net in the 79th minute to help the blue and gold advance over Clemson.
Sophomore goalkeeper Nate Crockford said he knew his team had it in them to fight back and get both of those wins.
“We are able to keep the way we play, even with the increased intensity after we concede,” Crockford said. “Our culture and identity as a team has been not to give up after the first goal and keep playing. Our first thought after a goal isn’t to be down on ourselves but to think, ‘how can we get that equalizer?’”
Vermont is a member of the America East conference with an RPI of 15, 11 spots higher than the Bruins. The Catamounts defeated Quinnipiac 3-2 in overtime in their first game of the tournament, and then won 3-2 against No.11 SMU in the second round.
Although UCLA and Vermont have played three times in their programs’ history, they haven’t faced off since 1995, with the Bruins posting a 2-0-1 all-time record against the Catamounts.
Similar to the blue and gold, Vermont came from behind in both of its tournament wins, and is led by forward Max Murray, who has 10 goals and five assists on the season – three of which have come in the postseason.
Coach Ryan Jorden said he expects his squad to be ready for the matchup, as they have had to face teams of this caliber before in the regular season.
“We play top teams all the time in conference and those games have massive intensities, so I think we have been well prepared for that,” Jordan said. “When you have one of the toughest schedules in the country your players have to maximize their energy every time and always bring that intensity, so I think it will be nothing different this weekend.”
This Saturday’s matchup will mark the 35th time the Bruins have reached the Sweet 16 in program history, with a record of 22-12 in the 34 Sweet 16 games prior. In this game, the Bruins will also be going for their 13th win as a team this season, the highest total for the Bruins since 2014.
Junior defender Tommy Silva said this team can stay focused no matter the stage.
“We take every game really seriously, so we are preparing the exact same way and are just going to do our best to get the win,” Silva said. “Tournament games are obviously win or go home, so I need to make sure my teammates and I leave it all on the line.”
The Bruins will take on the Catamounts in the third round matchup this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. With a win, UCLA would advance to the quarterfinals where it would take on either No. 3 Syracuse or No. 14 Cornell.