The Bruins are College Cup tied.
The 1st-seeded UCLA women’s soccer team (20-2-1) defeated 3rd-seeded Virginia (16-4-3) 2-1 to a packed Wallis Annenberg Stadium on Saturday. The triumph marks the Blue and Golds’ return to the Women’s College Cup for the first time since 2019 and the 12th time in program history.
The College Cup semifinals spot is also the first of the program under rookie coach Margueritte Aozasa. The Pac-12 Coach of the Year said she was very pleased with her team’s performance on Saturday.
“One of the things we asked of our team was to be super disciplined defensively and I thought we did that,” Aozasa said. “In terms of attack, I’m really proud of the group because we asked them to be adaptable and we played four different forms, I think, based on tactics. And everyone delivered, everyone executed, so I couldn’t be prouder of the team.”
The Bruins struggled to maintain possession for the first 15 minutes of the contest but wasted no time, converting their first shot of the day. Assisted by a perfect 2-1 pass from second striker Lexi Wright, veteran midfielder/forward Sunshine Fontes swept down the left wing and fired a shot. The ball was deflected off Cavalier goalkeeper Cayla White’s gloves in the 15th minute and into the back net to give the Bruins their first goal of the night.
Fontes spoke about how goals like the one she scored tonight come together on the practice field first and she credited her teammate for the preparation.
“You can see the connection in training,” said Fontes. “Just taking that from practice to the game pays off and Lexi is amazing so it’s nice for her to have the support and be recognized in that way.”
Both teams took turns shooting for the remainder of the first half, including a possible second goal for UCLA disallowed for offside in the 24th minute and an open shot wide of the goal for Virginia in the 27th minute by Lia Godfrey. which was sent straight into the hands of graduate student goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy for the save. Both teams ended the first half with four shots, two of which were on target.
The Cavaliers pressed early in the second half and created several chances, including a powerful shot on goal from Virginia forward Alexa Spaanstra that forced Brzykcy to save in the 66th minute.
A set piece in the 75th minute brought Virginia the equalizer. A corner kick whipped up by midfielder Lia Godfrey struck the forehead of 1.70m forward Haley Hopkins, who slammed the ball into the top left corner and increased the intensity at Wallis Annenberg Stadium.
The Bruins fired back in the 82nd minute with their only shot on goal of the second half from midfielder Sofia Cook, which forced White to make a save. Otherwise, the blue and gold struggled to create chances in the second period, finishing the half outshot with a seven-to-three lead.
After a back and forth start into overtime, Cook regained the lead for UCLA in the 98th minute. An arbitrary clearance in the box by Virginia found Cook’s right foot on first touch and poked the game-winning goal just through White’s gloves.
Cook said the decisive goal came together very quickly.
“All I remember is the ball came, Ally (forward Ally Cook) ran towards me and I just hit it with the outside of my foot,” Sofia Cook said. “Yes, it was great.”
As a teammate of Sofia Cook, Fontes stressed the importance of the player’s performance in the first year
“Having Sofia Cook, a freshman, step up was just great,” said Fontes. “We needed her in that moment, and there she was.”
Cheers echoed through the frigid Westwood night as the Bruins stormed onto the field after the final overtime had ended. After much cheering and chanting, Aozasa reflected on the team’s success in their first year with the program.
“We’ve talked about this since the first day I worked here in January,” Aozasa said. “One of our goals was to get back in the last four and make a little impact and I think we managed to do that today.”
UCLA flies to Cary, North Carolina this week to take on No. 1-seeded Alabama in the Women’s College Cup semifinals on Friday at 5:30 p.m. PST.