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‘Now we can go out on top’: Bruins to play final Pac-12 match Friday

Redshirt junior forward Jose Contell pushes the ball forward. Contell was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for his two-goal performance at Stanford. (Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff)

Men's Soccer

San Diego State
Nov 10, 7 p.m.

SDSU Sports Deck
No TV info

By Anthony Aroyan

Nov. 9, 2023 3:16 p.m.

The Bruins are guaranteed a share of the Pac-12 title. Now, they have a chance to secure it outright.

No. 21 UCLA men’s soccer (8-3-5, 5-0-4 Pac-12) will play its final match in the Pac-12 at San Diego State (6-6-5, 0-6-3) on Friday. With a win against the Aztecs, the Bruins will hoist the Pac-12 title as sole champions for the first time since 2012, after their 3-1 win over the Cardinal confirmed them as at least co-champions.

With postseason ambitions on the horizon, coach Ryan Jorden said he is still focused on closing out the regular season strong.

“Our regular season is not over,” Jorden said. “Our job is to do the recovery and put ourselves in a good situation so we prepare to go to San Diego and try to have a really good performance there.”

The previous meeting between the two sides Oct. 20 ended with a 2-1 victory for the Bruins, with goals from senior forward Andre Ochoa and junior defender Pietro Grassi in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.

At the time, Jorden dubbed that performance as the Bruin’s top collective team showing of the year, despite missing the services of their lead scorer, graduate student forward Jack Sarkos, who has since returned from injury.

Sarkos’ return to the pitch came Sunday with a goal against Stanford, a return that could increase UCLA’s scoring ability in preparation for the postseason.

Sarkos said the goal lifted a curse.

“My junior year at Lehigh, I had eight goals. My senior year, I had eight goals, and before I got hurt, I had eight goals,” Sarkos said. “I thought my season was going to be over and I was thinking the worst. It felt great to break the curse and get back on the scoresheet.”

Another piece to the Bruins’ is redshirt junior forward Jose Contell, who earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for his performances against California and Stanford last week.

Senior defender Tommy Silva said Contell’s accolades were evidence of the hard work he has put in throughout his career in Westwood.

“Jose is my best friend on this team,” Silva said. “It is special to see him be successful because we have been working so hard side by side for years. I’m just happy for his success.”

Defensively, the Bruins have been steady at the back, conceding three goals in their last five matches. UCLA held San Diego State to three shots earlier in the season, with all three attempts coming in the first half.

Sarkos said even though holding the title outright is still up for grabs, winning the share of the final Pac-12 title etched the team into a unique place in Bruin history.

“UCLA just breeds champions and I feel like now that we can contribute to that, it’s a great feeling,” Sarkos said. “We were the kings of the Pac-12 since it’s been a thing and now we can go out on top. It’s a dream come true to represent these four letters.”

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Anthony Aroyan
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