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UCLA women’s soccer 2023 NCAA tournament predictions

Members of UCLA women’s soccer embrace in celebration. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Grace Whitaker, Isabelle Friedman, Ava Abrishamchian, and Lori Garavartanian

Nov. 9, 2023 4:03 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 9 at 7:11 p.m.

No. 1 seed UCLA women’s soccer (16-1-1, 10-0-1 Pac-12) will face UC Irvine (8-7-6, 3-3-4 Big West) in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Take a look at how DB Sports predicts the events of the tournament to play out.

Grace Whitaker
Daily Bruin senior staff
Prediction: NCAA semifinalists

The 2023 season has looked nearly picture-perfect for the Bruins.

With the exception of one loss and one tie, UCLA has been on a victory tour of sorts, gaining the final Pac-12 title, a rivalry matchup win. It appears as though their postseason success from last November has spilled over into this season.

But, as the adage goes, all good things must come to an end.

UCLA is one of the most talented squads in the bracket, but the one thing it doesn’t have is a vengeance to use as fuel to propel them toward a national title, unlike the other squads.

They’ve got it all at the moment: the reigning national title, the Pac-12 notch, the No. 1 seed, the sweep of Pac-12 awards, but sometimes this success can weigh on athletes. And with their last – and only – loss of the season being in August, the Bruins head into the tournament looking to extend their success, not redeem their failures.

The target on UCLA’s back will persist into this tournament, and other teams like North Carolina, Stanford and USC are looking for their own moment in the sun.

And the Bruins’ time to lose will likely come sooner than last season, not because of a lack of talent or hard work, but because unlike UCLA, the team on the other side of the field will be going in with nothing to lose.

Isabelle Friedman
Daily Bruin senior staff
Prediction: NCAA quarterfinalists

Following up a national championship-winning season is difficult.

It’s certainly a good problem to have, but difficult nonetheless.

UCLA women’s soccer has a target on its back, and although it has earned every bit of its No. 1 seed for the 2023 NCAA tournament, I don’t think the Bruins can withstand the pressure to go back to back.

UCLA should be able to defeat Irvine handedly, even with the mental game of facing the team that eliminated its 2021 tournament hopes in the first round, and the majority of their bracket corner seems well within the Bruins’ ability to beat.

The main obstacle in their path? No. 2 seed Stanford, sitting opposite UCLA in the bottom right corner of the bracket.

The Cardinal – having gone undefeated all season while tallying four draws, including one against the Bruins – will be fighting with a vengeance to defeat UCLA.

Coach Margueritte Aozasa has yet to claim victory over her former school since leaving her assistant coach position at Stanford for head coach at UCLA last year. The Bruin and Cardinal matchup earlier this season ended in a draw but I don’t think now, with the tournament heat turned to the max, will be Aozasa’s moment to finally defeat her former team.

UCLA has without a doubt earned its place among the top teams in the nation, but the familiarity with Stanford might just be too much to handle.

Ava Abrishamchian
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: National champions

Sports are a puzzle.

Regular season games are the outer corners, setting up the season’s image. It is in the postseason where the puzzle is completed, or is left in frustration.

I have covered UCLA from its beginning pieces in Utah to its inner workings at home. The season has been an extension of their last season sweep, and the Bruins are still a team with every piece in place to complete a championship puzzle once again.

Defensively, the Bruins are a powerhouse. With the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week staying with the Bruins for six times in the past seven weeks, junior defenders Lilly Reale, Quincy McMahon, Jayden Perry and Ayo Oke are an unbreakable line of defenders that have held opponents to single digit shots 16 out of 18 games this season.

On the other end of the pitch, senior forward Reilyn Turner is approaching history, looking to become the sixth Bruin in history to have 100 career points. With this accolade on the horizon, the playoffs present an opportunity for the freshly named Pac-12 Forward of the Year to deliver her last offensive run. From graduate student forward Ally Cook ranking fourth in goals and junior forward Quincy McMahon tying first in assists for the conference, the Bruins have a consistent attacking front that’ll take them all the way.

Led by Coach Margueritte Aozasa, two- time Pac-12 Coach of the Year, the squad remains a force in the NCAA, and at times, simply unbeatable. With a picturesque season coming to an end, the last piece of the puzzle may be luck.

However, with a team as close as family and a process that keeps working, I think the Bruins should look forward to a completed puzzle and another piece of hardware for their trophy case.

Lori Garavartanian
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Runner Ups to No.1 seed Florida State

Winning a Pac-12 championship has a sweet taste to it. Taking a national championship with you to the Big Ten has an even nicer ring. Unfortunately, as I see it, the trophy is going to a third conference entirely, to a coast completely opposite UCLA.

UCLA has been playing at a level that seems unlikely to beat. The Bruins incurred one loss over two months ago and have not looked back since. They’ve had eleven shutouts total and multiple games with over 30 shots.

Led by forwards graduate student Ally Cook and senior Reilyn Turner and junior defenders Lilly Reale and Quincy McMahon, this year’s Pac-12 champions seem poised for a deep run in the tournament.

The final challenge comes in the form of the Seminoles, a team who have done the unthinkable: topped the Bruins’ record of the season. In fact, the Seminoles come into the tournament without a single loss on their record books.

As impressive as the Bruins have been this season, they are still missing a key piece in graduate student forward/midfielder Sunshine Fontes. Fontes’ impact was considerable in the nine games she was on the field. At the end of the season, she remains the team’s 4th highest scorer despite playing only half of all possible games.

While the depth of the team has allowed the Bruins to progress and succeed despite Fontes’ absence, the reigning ACC champions, the Seminoles, pose an entirely different realm of problems.

They’re a team that has a 50-9 record when entering the tournament as a No. 1 seed and three national championships to show for it, all in the last decade. Entering this tournament on a nine game winning streak, the Seminoles are the Bruins’ ultimate challenge, an upward climb I don’t think an incomplete Bruin squad will be quite able to conquer.

Regardless, I think UCLA will put up a good fight and use its consistent defensive capabilities to limit Florida State to a low-scoring game and problems controlling the offensive front. At the end of the tournament, I think a 1-0 win will be the fine margin it takes for the ACC to have a shiny new trophy in its case.

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Grace Whitaker | Sports senior staff
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Isabelle Friedman | Editor in chief
Friedman is the 2023-2024 editor in chief. She was previously the Copy chief and a slot editor and has also contributed to Sports on the women's golf, women's soccer and gymnastics beats. Friedman is a fourth-year public affairs student.
Friedman is the 2023-2024 editor in chief. She was previously the Copy chief and a slot editor and has also contributed to Sports on the women's golf, women's soccer and gymnastics beats. Friedman is a fourth-year public affairs student.
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