On a cloudy Friday afternoon at Prentup Field, the University of Colorado soccer team hosted the No. 3 UCLA Bruins in their first Pac-12 conference home game of the season. Despite the Buffs’ best efforts in the second half, CU was unable to overcome an early UCLA goal and fell 1-0.
The Buffs are now 1-2-1 in the Pac-12 and 4-3-1 overall. UCLA remains at the top of the Pac-12 standings with a perfect 4-0 record in conference play.
UCLA wasted no time attacking early in the game. In the seventh minute, a deflected pass found the leg of UCLA midfielder Delanie Sheehan who kicked a rocket from just outside the penalty box and towards the lower right end of the goal. Sophomore goalkeeper Dani Hansen dove to block the shot but the ball just barely got by her outstretched hand.
“We started a little slow and it was disappointing to give up that goal,” said head coach Danny Sanchez. “But when you really look at it from after that, I don’t know when their second shot on goal was, but it wasn’t until middle or late in the second half. Although we gave up that early goal, I was pleased with how we responded.”
On offense, however, CU struggled to get in a rhythm and create opportunities in the first half. In the 35th minute, the Buffs looked like they might have a scoring chance when senior midfielder Shanade Hopcroft got behind the defense but was waived offsides before she could attempt a shot. In total, the Buffs ended the first half with just one shot, compared to eight by the Bruins.
The second half of the game was an entirely different story for CU. The Buffs came out of the gates firing. During a 10-minute run starting in the 50th minute, the Buffs put up four shots including CU’s first shot on goal courtesy of junior midfielder Kayleigh Webb, who was denied by UCLA goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy.
CU kept the pressure turned up and in the 69th minute CU had its best opportunity to tie the game. Webb headed a ball forwards to freshman midfielder Shyra James, who was in front of the goal. James sliced the ball towards the goal, but the ball was hit just a little too high and it banged off the top bar of the goal. Luckily for James, the ball bounced right back to her for another opportunity but her second shot flew high over the goal.
“We created a lot more chances, a little unfortunate with the crossbar and we had some other chances,” Sanchez said. “We probably created more chances than we have in probably any Pac-12 game this year.”
In the 71st minute, UCLA had its own scoring opportunity. On a corner kick, Hansen jumped up to catch the ball but was unable to bring it in. The ball, and Hansen, fell to the ground and it appeared the Bruins would be able to score in the resulting chaos. Luckily for CU, another Buffs defender was on the ground and to trap the ball and waive the play dead.
With the clock working against them in the closing minutes, the Buffs played with an intensity and were able to get three great shots off. Webb had a great look in the 89th and fired a low shot towards the middle of the goal, but Brzykcy made the save to lock up the 1-0 win for the Bruins.
Junior defender Sofia Weiner saw a resiliency in the Buffs after falling behind early.
“We are just not willing to roll over at that point, and I think we have enough fight in us and a belief within each other to dig ourselves out of those holes,” Weiner said. “I think we are going to start getting results if we continue that mentality. As a group that comes from all of us, all together, it is not just one individual it is a collective.”
CU will have another chance this weekend to pick up a Pac-12 win as, weather permitting, they will host the No. 14 USC Trojans on Sunday at 1 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Matthew Lenneman at email@example.com