It’s taken a little longer to pick a winner, but the Bruins are officially headed to Cary, North Carolina.
No. 1 seeded UCLA women’s soccer (20-2-1, 9-2 Pac-12) defeated No. 3 seeded Virginia (16-4-3, 6-2-2 ACC) 2-1 in the Elite Eight at Wallis Annenberg Stadium extended their season for another week on Saturday night when they secured a College Cup berth for the first time since 2019. Victory also came in extra time, with the exploits of newly minted midfielder Sofia Cook ultimately providing the final push the Bruins needed to secure victory.
Cook’s game-winner in the 98th minute was set up by senior midfielder Jackie Gilday, who broke through the Cavaliers’ defense and nutmeg-rolled a defender in the attacking third. The veteran was able to cross the ball into the box only for it to be headed away by a Virginia defender.
At that moment, Cook came in on her left, hit the ball once with the outside of her right foot and deflected the ball right past the goalkeeper into the left post.
UCLA stayed strong for the rest of overtime, and coach Margueritte Aozasa led the program into the last four in her first-ever year as head of staff. While her predecessor – Amanda Cromwell – gave the team its first and only national title in 2013, she ended her tenure with a series of early retirements from the NCAA tournament, a trend Aozasa promptly erased.
The Bruins struck first on Saturday as well and came on the board early in the 15th minute.
Senior striker Sunshine Fontes did everything herself, starting on the left touchline and splitting defenders while chasing long touches to make it to the left post. Goalkeeper Cayla White was no match for Fontes’ speed and the power of her shot as her attempt went straight through her gloves and into the back net.
Goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy had to make two saves to keep Virginia scoreless in the first half and she did just that to lead her team 1-0 into the break.
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The Cavaliers’ eventual equalizer came in the 75th minute, less than 10 minutes away from a clutch save by Brzykcy to temporarily save the goal.
This time Virginia had been awarded a corner kick. Midfielder Lia Godfrey’s cross came high and forward Haley Hopkins headed her in mid-traffic. Brzykcy couldn’t locate it and the Cavaliers had equalized 1-1.
The Bruins might have had a decent chance to regain the lead in the 82nd round, but White fended it off. Brzykcy, on the other hand, had to make saves in the 84th and 90th minutes to send the game into overtime.
Neither goalkeeper was able to save in the two 15-minute overtime periods as five of the six shots between the two teams were either blocked or went completely wide.
Virginia had 15 shots to UCLA’s nine by the end of the night, but Bryzkcy made five saves to keep the match much lower. Cook’s winner all but ended things, giving the Bruins their second overtime win in three games – the last coming against UCF on penalties in the Round of 32.
UCLA next meets September’s No. 1 Alabama next in the national semifinals on Dec. 2.
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PHOTO COURTESY OF ROSS TURTELTAUB/UCLA ATHLETICS