UCLA women’s soccer knocks out Alabama 3-0 to advance to championship finals
The UCLA women’s soccer team celebrates. Friday’s victory over the Crimson Tide sends the Bruins to the NCAA championship game Monday. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 1 seed UCLA||3|
|No. 1 seed Alabama||0|
By Jay Fenn
Dec. 2, 2022 8:05 p.m.
This post was updated Dec. 2 at 10:27 p.m.
CARY, N.C. — The Bruins’ offense came alive to advance the team to their first national championship since 2017.
No. 1 seed UCLA women’s soccer (21-2-1, 9-2 Pac-12) used an offensive barrage to take down No. 1 seed Alabama (23-3-1, 10-0 SEC) by a score of 3-0 on Friday in Cary, North Carolina. The Bruins produced 20 shots with 11 being on goal to advance to the title game.
Coach Margueritte Aozasa said the performance Friday night was an accumulation of all the hard work the Bruins had put in throughout the season.
“I couldn’t couldn’t be more proud of our team. I felt like that was a statement win that we’ve been waiting on,” Aozasa said. “We knew that we were capable of that, but it was really nice to see it in action and every single player that played today executed and did exactly what we needed them to do.”
Sophomore forward Lexi Wright generated UCLA’s best chance of the opening minutes with an opportunity right in front of the net, but her shot was saved by Alabama’s goalkeeper McKinley Crone. Wright had a chance on the rebounded shot, but Crone once again thwarted the ensuing shot with a diving save.
After junior forward Reilyn Turner was taken down outside the box, senior forward Sunshine Fontes stepped up to take the free kick. The senior’s shot was heading directly to the bottom left corner, but Crone once again made a diving save to keep the Bruins off the board.
Alabama would find the back of the net in the 27th minute on a cross that was headed in, but the opening score was called off by an offside call.
The Bruins would strike first in the 30th minute, after sophomore defender Quincy McMahon played a cross into the six-yard box that Turner tapped in to put the Bruins up 1-0. The goal was the junior’s 10th of the year, and first since Oct. 20th.
UCLA would maintain its advantage into halftime, controlling the game offensively with seven shots on goal compared to Alabama’s three.
Turner would have a one-on-one opportunity with Crone four minutes into the second half, but the Alabama goalkeeper would make another incredible save. Fontes would have a chance of her own in front of the goal seconds later, but the senior was unable to convert.
UCLA would add to its advantage in the 52nd minute after a goal from McMahon brought the score to 2-0. This was the defender’s third goal of the season, and third point of the match after her assist in the first half.
Aozasa said she was impressed with how the Bruins’ offense has grown over the course of the season.
“At the beginning of the season our focus was defending and for the first five or six games that really was what we’re all about,” Aozasa said. “As the season evolved, our team evolved and you started to see the attacking flare.”
The Bruins didn’t stop there.
In the 54th minute, graduate student midfielder Madelyn Desiano dribbled the ball to the top of the box and delivered a clean shot that found the top left corner to put the blue and gold up 3-0. The goal was the third of her collegiate career, and second of the tournament.
Desiano said her goal was one she will never forget.
“I’ve only had two (goals) in my collegiate career, so this was a dream come true,” Desiano said. “I’m just so happy that I got to have this goal and celebrate it with this team.”
Graduate student goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy anchored UCLA’s backline, making six saves en route to the blue and gold’s 14th clean sheet of the season.
Aozasa said she was happy with how the team adjusted defensively to Alabama’s offensive changes.
“I was really proud of how our team adapted to their (Alabama’s) shape,” Aozasa said. “They threw some things at us in the first half that we hadn’t seen before, and one of our goals as a staff was to ensure that our players were able to problem solve on the field.”
The Bruins will advance to their first national championship game since 2017, when they fell to Stanford.
UCLA will face off against No. 2 seed North Carolina, setting up a rematch of the Sept. 4 match that saw the blue and gold knock off the then-No. 1 team in a 2-1 victory. Kickoff is set for Monday at 6:00 p.m EST.
After the Bruins’ shocking loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, Turner said the blue and gold is more determined than ever to bring home the second title in program history.
“We know how it feels to lose, and we just don’t want to feel like that again,” Turner said. “We’ve worked so hard in the offseason and preseason to get here, and we’re making it a point to keep going and keep dancing.”