It took seven shots on goal in the opening 17 minutes for the Bruins to find the back of the net.
Senior midfielders Delanie Sheehan and Marley Canales fired some long balls on target, and sophomore forward Mia Fishel had a few close-up attempts. But it was freshman forward Reilyn Turner who broke the 0-0 tie with a driven ball into the left side of the net, good for her second goal in three career games.
No. 4 UCLA women’s soccer (3-0) defeated San Diego (0-2) with a 3-0 shutout in its second home contest of the season. The Bruins finished the match with 19 shots – 11 of which were on goal – in comparison to 10 and 14 shots in their first two games, respectively.
“Their keeper did a great job, especially in the first half, making some key saves that took away a little bit of our momentum,” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “We did create a lot and we were dangerous, so I’m happy about that, but I think our finishing focus was a little off.”
While it was redshirt senior defender Jacey Pederson’s third career assist – a long ball over a Torero defender at the top of the 18-yard box – that led to Turner’s game-winner, the play started from midfield. Senior defender Lucy Parker threatened on the dribble before connecting with Canales and Sheehan to switch the field and build the attack.
Cromwell said Parker’s offensive playmaking ability, even from center back, is crucial to UCLA’s success.
“(Parker’s) role is superhero – she does it all,” Cromwell said. “She stops their attack in such a calm and composed way, and she’s also able to dribble forward and really create a lot.”
Parker was the only Bruin field player who remained on the field for the entire game, and she has done so in all three games. Last season, she started all 24 games for UCLA and led the team with 2,055 minutes played.
During Tuesday’s match, with the absence of senior defender Karina Rodriguez because of Mexican national team duties, Parker played alongside six different players on the defensive line.
“I was just thinking about how many people came in (on the backline),” Parker said. “We just did really well to stay connected. I mean, we got the shutout so we must have done something pretty well. I think the biggest thing is just the communication between us all and getting the positioning right.”
The second Bruin goal of the match came from senior midfielder Olivia Athens, who collected a failed San Diego clearance, dribbled to the penalty mark and sent a shot past the goalkeeper uncontested, logging her first score since Nov. 16, 2018.
“It meant a lot, it kind of felt like a long time – it’s literally been years,” Athens said. “I luckily nicked one off the defender, so they kind of set me up, but it felt good to put it in the back of the net.”
The broken Torero play that led to the goal was forced by a high press from redshirt freshman forward Sunshine Fontes and freshman midfielder Aislynn Crowder, both of whom came off the bench.
Fontes then contributed a goal of her own – her second goal in as many games – when she ripped a long shot from 30 yards out into the top right corner of the net to put the Bruins up 3-0 with 15 minutes left to play.
Crowder, however, was carried off the field with an injury less than a minute later, joining an already injury-ridden bench that forced UCLA to rotate a total of 19 players during Tuesday’s game. The Bruins will have a 10-day break to recover before starting their conference slate against Arizona.
“These 10 days provide a good window to rest and get some injuries healed, hopefully, so we can have a stronger squad,” Athens said. “Arizona is going to have some similarities to San Diego, so it’s learning from this and taking this time to improve.”