This post was updated on December 2nd at 10:27pm
CARY, NC — The Bruins’ offense came alive to lead the team to its first national championship since 2017.
No. 1-seeded UCLA Women’s Soccer (21-2-1, 9-2 Pac-12) used an offensive barrage to take down No. 1-seeded Alabama (23-3-1, 10-0 SEC) by 3 points defeat -0 on Friday in Cary, North Carolina. The Bruins produced 20 shots, 11 of which were on target to advance to the title game.
Coach Margueritte Aozasa said Friday night’s performance was an accumulation of all the hard work the Bruins had put in throughout the season.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team. I felt like this was a statement win that we’ve been waiting for,” said Aozasa. “We knew we were capable of it, but it was really nice to see it in action and every single player that played today executed and did exactly what we asked them to do.”
Sophomore forward Lexi Wright generated UCLA’s best chance in the opening minutes with an opportunity just in front of the net, but her shot was saved by Alabama goaltender McKinley Crone. Wright had a chance for the ricocheted shot, but Crone again thwarted the ensuing shot with a dive save.
After junior forward Reilyn Turner was brought down outside the box, senior forward Sunshine Fontes stepped forward to take the free-kick. The senior’s shot went straight to the bottom left corner, but Crone made another diver save to keep the Bruins off the board.
Alabama would find the back of the net in the 27th minute on a cross that was headed in, but the opening score was cut short by an offside call.
The Bruins would strike first in the 30th minute after second defender Quincy McMahon played a cross into the six-yard box that Turner tapped in to make it 1-0 for the Bruins. The goal was 10th of the juniors’ year, and first since October 20th.
UCLA would retain their advantage through halftime, offensively controlling the game with seven shots on goal compared to Alabama’s three.
Turner would have had a one-on-one chance with Crone four minutes into the second half, but the Alabama keeper would make another incredible save. Fontes would have had his own chance in front of goal seconds later, but the senior couldn’t convert.
UCLA would add to their advantage in the 52nd minute after a McMahon goal made it 2-0. It was the defender’s third goal of the season and third point of the game after her first-half assist.
Aozasa said she’s been impressed with how the Bruins’ offense has grown over the course of the season.
“At the beginning of the season our focus was on defense and for the first five or six games it was really about that for us,” Aozasa said. “As the season progressed, our team has evolved and you’ve started to see the attack flare.”
The Bruins didn’t stop there.
In the 54th minute, midfielder Madelyn Desiano dribbled the ball to the top of the box and fired a clean shot into the top left corner to give the Blues and Golds a 3-0 lead. The goal was the third of her college career and second of the tournament.
Desiano said her goal is one she will never forget.
“I’ve only had two (goals) in my college career, so this is a dream come true,” Desiano said. “I’m just so happy that I got the chance to score that goal and celebrate it with this team.”
Goaltender Lauren Brzykcy anchored UCLA’s defensive line and made six saves en route to the blue-and-gold’s 14th clean sheet of the season.
Aozasa said she’s pleased with how the team has defensively adjusted to Alabama’s offensive changes.
“I was really proud of how our team adapted to their (Alabama’s) form,” said Aozasa. “They threw some things at us in the first half that we hadn’t seen before and one of our goals as a staff member was to make sure our players were able to solve problems on the pitch.”
The Bruins will advance to their first national championship game since 2017 when they fell to Stanford.
UCLA will take on No. 2 North Carolina and will schedule a replay of the Sept. 4 match where blue and gold defeated then No. 2. 1 team in a 2:1 win. Kickoff is scheduled for Monday at 6:00 p.m. EST.
After the Bruins’ shocking loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, Turner said the blue-and-golds are more determined than ever to take home the second title in program history.
“We know how it feels to lose and we just don’t want to feel that way again,” Turner said. “We’ve worked so hard over the offseason and preseason to get here and we make it a point to keep going and keep dancing.”