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UCLA women’s soccer heads to North Carolina for College Cup

Senior midfielder/forward Sunshine Fontes kicks the ball away from the surrounding defense. Fontes leads the Bruins in scoring with 11 goals throughout the season. (Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin)

Women's Soccer


No. 1 seed Alabama
Friday, 5:30 p.m.

Cary, North Carolina
ESPNU

By Cecilia Schmitz

Nov. 30, 2022 10:37 p.m.

High-stakes games in North Carolina are nothing new for the Bruins in 2022.

The last time No. 1 seed UCLA women’s soccer (20-2-1, 9-2 Pac-12) traveled to the Tar Heel state, it returned as the No. 1 team in the nation, after taking down the then-top-two teams. On Friday, the blue and gold will return to North Carolina for the College Cup, kicking off with a matchup against fellow No. 1 seed Alabama (23-2-1, 10-0 SEC).

After surviving the first four rounds of the NCAA tournament, the Bruins solidified their place in the College Cup by defeating No. 3 seed Virginia in overtime Saturday.

Coach Margueritte Aozasa emphasized the importance of preparation ahead of the team’s East Coast travels.

“Biggest thing is the physical side, quite honestly. Making sure they feel good, making sure they feel ready,” Aozasa said. “We do have a big travel day, so taking all of those things into account, but I think they’ll be ready.”

UCLA’s quest for a national championship begins Friday with a semifinal matchup against an unfamiliar opponent. Friday’s game will be the Bruins’ first bout with the Crimson Tide in program history, also marking Alabama’s first foray into the Final Four.

Senior midfielder/forward Sunshine Fontes, who leads the team in goals this season, said UCLA’s lack of experience competing against Alabama didn’t change how prepared the team feels going into Friday’s contest.

“No, I think we’re not going into it taking them lightly,” Fontes said. “We’re just trying to focus on ourselves as of right now and then just trying to make a few changes here and there.”

If UCLA defeats Alabama, it will take on the winner of Friday’s other semifinal contest between No. 2 seed North Carolina and No. 1 seed Florida State in the NCAA championship. The Bruins already defeated the Tar Heels on Sept. 4 in their first venture to North Carolina. The last time they took on the Seminoles, they defeated them 4-0 to advance to the College Cup in 2019.

Freshman midfielder Sofia Cook, whose overtime goal sealed the victory against the Cavaliers in the quarterfinals, said she has learned to channel the stress of high-stakes games into enthusiasm.

“At times, I do get stressed out, everyone does, but I kind of just have learned to turn stress, anxiety, nervousness, into excitement. I just want to play,” Cook said. “Time change is hard, but I think I’m accustomed to it now. We got our first training in now, so I feel good.”

The last time the Bruins advanced to the College Cup was in 2019. Senior forward Kali Trevithick and graduate student midfielder Maricarmen Reyes were the only current players to play regular minutes on that 2019 team, with the rest of the squad’s first run in the College Cup being this weekend.

Fontes, who was injured during the 2019 season and watched the College Cup from the stands, expressed her excitement at being able to play.

“Me and Maddi Desiano (graduate student defender Madelyn Desiano) were talking about how full circle it is, because now we’re actually playing,” Fontes said. “Just being able to experience this for the second time, I mean, I’m just super excited, obviously. I have full faith in our team. I’m really confident going into it.”

This weekend will also be rookie Aozasa’s first time leading a team into the Final Four in her first year at the helm of the Bruins, though Stanford collected two national championships in her seven years as an assistant coach with the Cardinal. The last time a first-year UCLA women’s soccer coach led the team to a College Cup was during previous coach Amanda Cromwell’s first season in 2013, when the Bruins won their first and only national title.

“Our new coaching staff is so awesome, I love each every one of them, so super helpful,” Cook said. “I learned a lot from them, so I think it was just, I definitely wanted to stay. I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

The Bruins will take on the Crimson Tide on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.

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Cecilia Schmitz | Assistant Sports editor
Schmitz is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women’s soccer, beach volleyball, women’s golf and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women’s soccer and beach volleyball beats and a staffer for the Outreach section. She is also a third-year political science and communication student.
Schmitz is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women’s soccer, beach volleyball, women’s golf and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women’s soccer and beach volleyball beats and a staffer for the Outreach section. She is also a third-year political science and communication student.
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