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#3 UCLA Women's Soccer Faces Iowa in NCAA Second Round
While the Bruins had a first round bye, the Iowa Hawkeyes beat Campbell on Campbell's home field 1-0 to advance to today's game.
The UCLA women’s soccer team (12-1-2) kicks off its postseason quest today in Buies Creek, North Carolina, when the Bruins square off against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Kickoff is at 12 pm PT.
The NCAA has made a number of tweaks to this year’s tournament, including reducing the field from 64 teams to 48 teams. That means that the sixteen seeded teams, including the #3 seeded Bruins, all received first round byes.
In addition, the entire tournament will take play in North Carolina. Therefore, the seeded teams do not automatically play tournament games on their home fields. In past years, it was possible for a seeded team to play up to four games on its home pitch before shifting to the final four teams of the College Cup.
So, although UCLA will not be playing any postseason games at Wallis Annenberg Stadium, they get the benefit of automatically being in the round of 32.
Incredibly, this situation could have resulted in highly seeded UCLA playing today’s game on the home field of its unseeded opponent, since the game will be played on Campbell University’s home field in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Campbell, however, lost on Tuesday to Iowa by the score of 1-0. So, the Hawkeyes and the Bruins will match up on Campbell’s pitch.
Last Time Out
In their last game of the regular season, the Bruins refused to lose to Southern Cal at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and, as a result, UCLA’s graduating seniors will leave the program without ever having lost to the Trojans.
Southern Cal got on the score sheet quickly with phenom forward Penelope Hocking netting her tenth goal of the season in the tenth minute. The teams would go into the dressing rooms at the half with the Trojans leading 1-0.
Southern Cal wasted no time in doubling its lead after the break when, in the 47th minute, the Trojans’ other prolific scorer, forward Tara McKeown, headed home a corner kick to make the score 2-0.
UCLA’s senior midfielder Delanie Sheehan cut the lead in half about nine minutes later, collecting a pass from sophomore forward Mia Fishel and putting the ball in the top left corner to beat the Trojan ‘keeper, Kaylie Collins.
UCLA pushed for the equalizer, which opened up chances for both sides, but both Collins and UCLA netminder Lauren Bryzkcy made some nice saves down the stretch. Collins finished the game with nine saves to Bryzkcy’s eight.
The Bruins would finally break through in the 88th minute, as another senior midfielder, Olivia Athens, headed home a ball to tie the game. The tally came off a Reilyn Turner free kick from close to midfield, a header by Marley Canales, resulting in the finish by Athens.
Neither team would score in the 20 minutes of overtime, resulting in the 2-2 draw. The result and scoreline was the same as the earlier contest between the two squads in March.
It was fitting that the two UCLA goalscorers, Sheehan and Athens, will now end their UCLA careers without losing to the Trojans, assuming that the two teams do not meet in the postseason. Such a scenario is unlikely, as that would only happen if the #8 seeded Trojans and the #3 seeded Bruins both make the final of the College Cup.
The Iowa Hawkeyes (7-8-1) have turned a nightmare season into a fairy tale. First, in beating Big South Champion Campbell on Tuesday, Iowa has notched its first ever NCAA Tournament win in women’s soccer. But THE story of the NCAA Tournament is how Iowa even made the postseason field in the first place.
Iowa, which only played a Big Ten regular season, started its campaign with a record of 0-6-1 in its first seven games. The Hawkeyes scored a total of one goal in those seven game. One.
The Hawkeyes would do better in their final four regular season games, winning two and losing two, all by the score of 1-0. So, Iowa went into the Big Ten Tournament as a twelve seed out of fourteen teams, with a 2-8-1 record, with three goals in eleven games and with the lowest of expectations.
Who would have thought that Iowa would run the table in the Big Ten Tournament? Nobody. Maybe not even themselves. But they did.
After starting the tournament with a 2-1 overtime upset over Illinois, Iowa shut out, in order, Minnesota, Penn State, and Wisconsin, winning the Big Ten Tournament for the first time ever and earning the Hawkeyes the Big 10’s automatic bid into the NCAA postseason.
Now, with the Campbell win, Iowa has won five straight games, the most recent four of which were clean sheets. Iowa has outscored its competition in those games 7-1. That comes on the heels of being outscored in the regular season, 3-13.
This is an incredible story and a 180 degree turnabout. It’s the kind of stuff that gets made into a Hollywood screenplay.
And, now, the Bruins hope to disrupt the fairy tale.
Aside from trips to the mountain schools, the Bay Area, and Tucson, UCLA has played the remainder of its games in California. It remains to be seen how the Bruins adjust to this North Carolina-based tournament.
UCLA has a lot of upperclassmen who have played meaningful games on the East Coast with games at Penn State, Florida, Cary, North Carolina (versus North Carolina) and Florida State in 2018; and again at Florida State in 2019. The Bruins will hope that this experience helps them in this year’s iteration of the tournament.
As for Iowa, they have had a great run, but I believe that the fairy tale ends today. Despite playing well over the last month or so, Iowa has not played the caliber of team that UCLA presents with the exception of Penn State who, despite being 10-2-1 on the season, are not seeded in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, no Big Ten team is seeded, leaving one to wonder what the selection committee thinks of the Big Ten.
My prediction: UCLA wins 2-0 and advances to play the winner of Clemson vs. Rutgers.
NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament Second Round
Teams: #3 Seed UCLA Bruins (12-1-2) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-8-1)
Game Time: 12:00 Noon PT, Friday, April 30, 2021
Where: Eakes Athletic Complex, Buies Creek, North Carolina
Live TV: ESPN3 with Zach Berly
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Live Audio: None
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
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