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UCLA men’s soccer raises Pac-12 trophy after season-closing win over SDSU

Redshirt junior midfielder Tucker Lepley holds the trophy up high as UCLA men’s soccer lifts the Pac-12 championship trophy for the first time in 11 years. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

By Felicia Keller

Nov. 11, 2023 7:14 p.m.

With the tags still on the Bruins’ Pac-12 champion hats bouncing up and down, chants of, “Olé, olé olé olé, UC, LA,” rang out until the lights were shut off.

Then came the next classic – Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”

No. 21 UCLA men’s soccer (9-3-5, 6-0-4 Pac-12) wrapped up its season with a 3-0 road victory over San Diego State (6-7-5, 0-7-3) on Friday night. Already Pac-12 champions entering the match after Oregon State finished its season with a draw, UCLA ceremoniously lifted the trophy after the match’s conclusion.

“Do I enjoy winning? Yes. But you know what I really enjoy? Watching these guys have success, and watching them be together, their relationships and watching them grow in them,” said coach Ryan Jorden.

The Bruins finished with an undefeated Pac-12 record, joining 2017 national champions Stanford and 2011 UCLA as the only teams in 20 years to accomplish the feat.

To complete the unbeaten run, the Bruins took the lead on a seventh-minute goal from redshirt junior midfielder Tucker Lepley. The team’s captain cut the ball to his left before sending off a curved shot to the top left of the goal, his third of the year.

Now in his fourth season in Westwood, Lepley has watched the team grow from missing the 2020 NCAA tournament to conference champions.

“For me and a lot of the older guys who have been here over the past four years, this has been the goal, to get to a place where UCLA is finally back on the map,” Lepley said. “This is a combination of all of our hard work over the course of these years.”

Graduate student midfielder Ryan Becher doubled the Bruins lead in the 46th minute, where a 20-yard dribble preceded a well-placed shot to the goalkeeper’s left. Seven minutes later, fellow graduate student midfielder Sean Karani tucked in a rebound for the third goal of the night.

The Bruins held the Aztecs to a shutout but allowed 13 shots – 10 more than in the previous previous competition between the two teams. A career-high performance from sophomore goalkeeper Sam Joseph featured seven saves, including multiple tips over the crossbar.

Joseph said his seven saves were important but added that his defenders deserve credit as well.

“I can’t say I really didn’t have to do much because I did a little bit, but that’s just my job, that’s what I have to do, and that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Joseph said. “So I’m just thankful I have my defenders on my back and get a good result, 3-0 and a clean sheet.”

Now, with their first trophy since 2012 in their hands, the Bruins await the NCAA selection committee’s decision Monday to learn their place in the tournament bracket.

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Felicia Keller
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
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