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UCLA men’s soccer heads to Bay Area with chance to win Pac-12 championship

Redshirt junior midfielder Tucker Lepley chases after the ball with UCLA men’s soccer’s opponents just behind him. (Ella Greenberg Winnick/Daily Bruin)

Men's Soccer

Nov 2, 3:30 p.m.

Edwards Stadium
Pac-12 Networks
No. 15 Stanford
Nov. 5, 4 p.m.

Laird Q. Cagan Stadium
Pac-12 Networks

By Anthony Aroyan

Nov. 1, 2023 12:36 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 1 at 1:06 p.m.

The Bruins will travel to the Bay Area with championship aspirations on the line.

UCLA men’s soccer (7-3-4, 4-0-3 Pac-12) has completed its home slate, losing just one of its eight matches at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. But now, the team will head north to battle two Bay Area opponents in No. 19 Stanford (7-2-5, 1-1-5) and California (6-5-4, 2-3-2).

With just three matches left in the regular season, UCLA sits just one point behind first place with a chance to clinch the Pac-12 championship this weekend.

“We know if we win it (against Cal) on Thursday we position ourselves to win it on Sunday,” coach Ryan Jorden said. “You’re in the wrong business if you’re not thinking about it in those terms.”

Earlier in the season, the Bruins hosted both opponents, defeating the Golden Bears and drawing with the Cardinal. However, both games featured goals from graduate student midfielder Ryan Becher, who did not take part in last week’s action.

UCLA could be missing another key contributor against Stanford. Graduate student forward Jack Sarkos scored the Bruins’ second goal against the Cardinal in September and still serves as the team’s leading goal scorer. Jorden did not provide a specific timetable for the return of Sarkos or Becher as they recover from their respective injuries.

Despite the absence of pieces up front and in the midfield, UCLA has still been able to maintain positive results through its defensive identity, conceding just one goal in the last three games.

Graduate student defender Owen Schwartz said the key to closing out the season strong will be patience.

“We know we’re good enough to win all three games,” Schwartz said. “It’s just about taking each day by itself and focusing on training this week, then putting all our attention on Thursday.”

One category where the Bruins have demonstrated discipline is inside the referee’s notebook.

Their 13 yellow cards so far this season mark the fewest by any Division I program. Jorden said the team’s composure has been key to staying out of trouble and keeping the ball out of dangerous areas.

“It shows a lot of control and discipline from the players in moments to not commit fouls,” Jorden said. “We know if we commit fouls in our half people will stick balls in the box, we’re trying to avoid the randomness that comes from that.”

This weekend will mark UCLA’s final matches against these Bay Area opponents with all three teams in the Pac-12. And with the conference championship on the line, the Bruins will go down in history, no matter the result.

Redshirt junior midfielder Tucker Lepley said he has looked back fondly at his previous Bay Area visits as UCLA prepares for their weekend contests.

“There was a game two seasons ago where we played in a monsoon up in Stanford, just go up there with the boys and grind out a nil-nil result,” Lepley said. “We didn’t win but just the memory of getting dirty, fighting, and going up there to your rival and taking a point was a great memory for me.”


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Anthony Aroyan
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