#3 Seed UCLA Women's Soccer Faces #14 Seed Clemson in Sweet Sixteen
The two teams met in last year's round of 32, with the Bruins prevailing 5-0 in Westwood. It will likely be tighter today in Cary, North Carolina.
After a snatching victory from the jaws of defeat last Friday versus Iowa, ending the Hawkeyes’ Cinderella run in the postseason, the UCLA women’s soccer team (13-1-2) will square off against the Clemson Tigers (12-4-1) today in the round of 16. Due to COVID-19, the entire tournament, including today’s game, is being played in North Carolina.
The teams will kick-off at 3 pm PT at WakeMed Field in Cary, North Carolina.
Last Time Out
Last Friday, UCLA faced Iowa. The Hawkeyes, after starting the season 2-8-1, had won five straight games, including all four games in the Big Ten Tournament, earning the automatic bid despite being under .500. They were the Cinderella story of the tournament.
And they got off to a Cinderella start against the Bruins, scoring in the sixth minute to go up 1-0. Despite UCLA getting into the final third and the penalty box through the remainder of the first half and most of the second half, the Bruins could not find that final quality to equalize. A missed touch here, a heavy touch there; it seemed like the Bruins had two left feet.
Finally, with less than six minutes to play, freshman Reilyn Turner collected a ball near the top of the box and hit a shot with some pace on the ground. The Hawkeye ‘keeper could have easily made a save with her foot as it was right at her, but that would have spilled a dangerous rebound. Instead, she dropped to the ground to try to scoop up the ball and . . . it squirted right between her hands and legs into the back of the net. Brutal for Iowa, but a huge lifeline for the Bruins.
Not content to go to overtime with a 1-1 scoreline, UCLA fought for the winner. In the final minute of regulation, Delanie Sheehan hustled to save a ball at the near sideline, juked past an Iowa defender and whipped a cross from the left flank into the top of the penalty box. Once again, the ball fell to Turner’s feet and she rifled a right-footed shot into the left corner of the net with 28 seconds left. In this instance, the ‘keeper had no chance and Turner had herself a brace in her first postseason game in a UCLA shirt.
The entire UCLA fan base breathed a sigh of relief. The Iowa game was too close for comfort.
Now, the competition ramps up significantly. This is going to be a tough match-up for the Bruins at this stage of the tournament. Not only is the game being played about 300 miles from Clemson University but, despite being the #14 seed, Clemson is actually ranked #6 in the country and hails from the vaunted ACC.
The Tigers have only lost to #1 Florida State on the road, #2 North Carolina on the road, and twice to #9 Duke, once on the road and once in the ACC Tournament in . . . Cary, North Carolina. Unlike UCLA, Clemson played the bulk of its schedule in the fall, with only six games in the spring before the postseason. The Tigers went 6-0 in those games against SEC competition.
Last week, the Tigers tied Rutgers 1-1 in the round of 32, but advanced to the round of 16 on penalties, 5-3. As a team, Clemson has statistics similar to the Bruins. The Tigers have scored 32 goals, while only conceding 13. UCLA has scored 35 and allowed 12.
21 of Clemson’s 32 goals have been scored by a trio of players. Freshman midfielder Megan Bornkamp leads the team with eight tallies. Sophomore midfielder Caroline Conti is right behind her with seven. Freshman forward Maliah Morris has six goals.
So, this is a different Clemson team than the one that the Bruins beat 5-0 in Westwood in the postseason last year, especially with freshmen such as Bornkamp and Morris.
The Tigers’ goalkeeper situation is also different, as one or two players could see time in net today, neither of which played against UCLA last year. Your guess is as good as mine as to who gets the start.
Last week versus Rutgers, freshman Halle Mackiewicz played in the first half and did not face a shot on frame or allow a goal. Junior Hensley Hancuff played in the second half as well as stoppage time. Although she conceded the equalizer, Hancuff was in net for penalties and she made a big save to help the Tigers advance. Due to her length, Hancuff is tough in penalty shootouts—she is 6’3”.
Finally, it is expected to be about 85 degrees at kickoff at WakeMed Field with almost 50% humidity. Although it can get hot in Westwood, this is a different kind of heat. Luckily for the Bruins, they have remained in North Carolina since traveling there last week and should have several training sessions in the heat under their belt to prepare for today.
It seems that several factors mitigate against UCLA today: an opponent that should be seeded lower, the relative distances from home, the southern heat and humidity, and Clemson’s desire for revenge after being played off the pitch last season in Westwood. The way I see it, however, the biggest issue for UCLA will be who scores first.
The Bruins have conceded first in their last three games. They were down 1-0 and came back to beat Stanford 2-1 in OT. They were down 2-0 and came back to tie Southern Cal. And they had the miracle comeback against Iowa. Although I like the never-say-die attitude, I worry that UCLA’s luck could run out.
This game is a toss-up for me, although I will give UCLA a very slight edge (because I am a homer) and predict that they move into the round of eight.
NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament Third Round
Teams: #3 Seed UCLA Bruins (13-1-2) vs. #14 Seed Clemson Tigers (12-4-1)
Game Time: 3:00 pm PT, Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Where: WakeMed Field #4, Cary, North Carolina
Live TV: None
Live Stream: goheels.com
Live Audio: None
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
This is your UCLA women’s soccer versus Clemson Tigers Sweet Sixteen game thread.