This post was updated Nov. 19 at 9:36 p.m.
History repeated itself.
Hitting the post and the crossbar in the second half, the Bruins’ efforts were not enough to earn the victory, being knocked out in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
No. 13 seed UCLA men’s soccer (9-4-5, 6-0-4 Pac-12) lost 1-0 to Loyola Marymount (9-4-6, 2-3-2 West Coast Conference) for the second time this season after conceding in the first half at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. The loss meant the Bruins got knocked out of the playoffs in their first NCAA tournament game Sunday.
The Bruins’ 24 shots surpassed their 14.1 average on the season, and they held 67% of possession. With the loss in the second round, the Pac-12 champions became the first team from the conference to be eliminated from the tournament.
Coach Ryan Jorden said despite the loss, he was happy with his team’s performance in the game.
“I think their (the Bruins’) performance was as good as any performance or better than any performance we had this year,” Jorden said. “Because you’re playing a top team, for us to dominate the game in the manner that we did against a very good team – I think that’s a really good performance.”
Redshirt junior midfielder Tucker Lepley added that he felt his team played well enough to deserve to win the game.
“I think the whole game we dominated them. We outplayed them. We just didn’t take a chance,” he said. “Sometimes you create, and at the end of the day, it’s just not your day.”
A shot-heavy first half from the Bruins saw them take 11 shots to the Lions’ two, but in the 29th minute, against the run of play and possession statistics, forward Tyger Smalls scored his seventh goal of the season with the Lions’ first shot of the game.
On a longball counterattack, junior defender Pietro Grassi missed a header, and the ball fell to Smalls, who buried his shot past the outstretched arm of sophomore goalkeeper Sam Joseph.
“We had probably one bad three-second spell in that game, and unfortunately we got caught on it,” Jorden said. “Obviously, conceding the goal makes it harder for us and easier for them.”
At the beginning of the second half, Smalls created another chance by rounding Joseph, leaving sophomore midfielder Tarun Karumanchi to clear the ball from within the Bruins’ six-yard box in the first of two clearances the Bruins made.
After the referee played advantage on a foul on Lepley at the edge of the box, redshirt junior forward Jose Contell hit an open shot in the 18-yard box straight at LMU goalkeeper Ryan Swan. Lepley also failed to convert from a chance near the penalty spot in the 73rd minute.
The Bruins earned further opportunities with LMU being forced into making a goal line clearance after a shot by senior defender Tommy Silva in the 80th minute. Minutes later, graduate student midfielder Ryan Becher deflected a shot off the crossbar from deep inside LMU’s box.
“I thought we were really good down the wing and down the flanks, creating chances,” Lepley said. “As good as our buildup was, we didn’t take a chance.”
After more fast passing in midfield, graduate student forward Jack Sarkos – the team’s top scorer this season with nine goals – headed a chance narrowly over the crossbar in the 86th minute.
A scramble in the box at the end of the game, resulting in graduate student midfielder Sean Karani skying a shot over the crossbar, sealed the fate of the team.
Lepley said although he’s still feeling numb after the loss, the team still hit its expectations for this season by winning the Pac-12 conference.
“I think if you asked the whole group at the start of the year, … we would have said, ‘Win the Pac-12,’ and we thought that going into the year that was for sure going to happen,” Lepley said. “We made it happen, but the ultimate goal was to win the big one, and we’ve come up short.”