Opportunity, passion comprise Ally Cook’s recipe for final UCLA soccer season
Graduate student forward Ally Cook smiles while holding a soccer ball. Cook is second in goal-scoring for the Bruins this season. (Ella Greenberg Winnick/Daily Bruin)
Oct. 31, 2023 11:28 a.m.
This post was updated Oct. 31 at 10:01 p.m.
A flash of blonde hair whipping past is all a defender sees when Ally Cook has the ball.
She drives the ball down the field, barreling past defenders to carve out the ball’s trajectory into the net.
It’s a scene that’s played out eight times already this season.
The graduate student forward has made a name for herself on the pitch for her goal-scoring abilities, racking up eight goals – the second-most on UCLA women’s soccer – in 17 games in the 2023 season after scoring five in 2022.
Growing up with two older sisters, Cook always knew she wanted to follow their path of collegiate soccer.
“I got started because my sisters played,” Cook said. “I just really looked up to them. They started playing, and I was like, ‘I want to do the same.’”
With the certainty of her dream of playing soccer came the certainty of her position on the field.
She said given the mentalities necessary for each position, her forward-looking nature indicated a natural fit as an attacker.
“Who doesn’t love scoring goals?” Cook said. “I think I have the very opportunistic mindset, not pessimistic of a defender. So I’m better fit for, ‘Oh, wait, it might come out, and that could be my opportunity.’”
Before bringing her talents to Wallis Annenberg Stadium, the forward dominated the offensive scheme of Oregon’s women’s soccer squad for three years. In her final season in Eugene, Cook led the Ducks in goals, points and shots. She finished her career in Oregon with the seventh-most goals and fourth-most game-winning goals in program history.
“She came to our team as one of the more dangerous forwards in the conference,” coach Margueritte Aozasa said. “And so we can’t take too much credit for that.”
Cook graduated early her junior year from Oregon, then took time to evaluate her future. Hailing from Coto de Caza, California, she said part of her decision to enter the transfer portal was a desire to be near where she grew up.
But long before transferring to UCLA, Cook already knew she wanted to be a Bruin.
“I actually wrote down in my journal when I was 8, I think – it was after I went and watched the College Cup down in San Diego,” Cook said. “And I was like, ‘I want to get a full ride to UCLA or Stanford.’”
Not only is UCLA just 75 miles from home, but 8-year-old Cook’s dream of becoming a Bruin still held true.
“I decided to go in the portal, and when I did that, I was talking to my dad and he’s like, ‘Okay, where would your ultimate goal be?’” Cook said. “And UCLA would be one of them, for sure.”
In 2022, she came to UCLA for her fourth year of collegiate soccer, entering a close-knit squad where Cook said she was immediately welcomed.
Junior forward Lexi Wright added that she and Cook soon became very close both on and off the field.
“It helps we’re really good friends off the field,” Wright said. “And so I think that chemistry, knowing each other well, really helps on the field – knowing her tendencies.”
Cook said she originally planned to stay for one season if the Bruins won the title.
However, her plans quickly changed.
Just halfway through the 2022 season, Cook realized she wanted to use up her final year of eligibility and stay in Westwood.
“You get there, and you’re just not satisfied – you want more,” Cook said when describing her experience last season. “I think I enjoyed it even more than I expected I was going to, so I was like, ‘I don’t want to leave here. I’m just starting this.’”
The 2022 season culminated in a national championship for the Bruins, which was sealed by Cook’s assist on the game-winning goal.
Cook has built on her initial success at UCLA since winning the national championship to become a force for the team in her second season as a Bruin and last of collegiate soccer.
Honored twice as the UCLA Student-Athlete of the Week thus far, Cook was also recently announced as No. 12 on the Top Drawer College Soccer Player rankings and is tied for fourth in the Pac-12 in goals.
“She’s just tenacious and fearless,” Aozasa said. “That’s what we love about her. She will challenge for any ball, doesn’t matter who else is going for it.”
Through it all, Cook’s passion for the sport remains the same.
“I still love soccer, and that’s kind of where I was,” Cook said. “I want to pursue playing professionally.”