UCLA women’s soccer just two wins away from second NCAA title

The UCLA women’s soccer team is motivated by wins. There is competition in games, in training, and even during team bonding.

“Winning is fun and awesome,” said freshman midfielder Sofia Cook of Marina High in Huntington Beach. “So I know when we’re all tired in the game, we just have that extra factor. So another 10 minutes. We have that.”

That drive to win has taken the Bruins (20-2-1) to the College Cup, which begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. with a match against No. 1 Alabama (23-2-1) in North Carolina State where two in particular Wins helped boost UCLA’s confidence.

Earlier this season in September, UCLA beat Duke and North Carolina, who were ranked No. 2 and No. 1 at the time, on the road.

“I think it really clicked there,” said senior midfielder Sunshine Fontes. “I think that’s when we all realized that we were capable of it.”

In UCLA’s first College Cup appearance since 2019, Fontes leads the team with 11 goals and 29 points — both career highs for the senior — and is second on the team with seven assists. She was named a second-team All-Pacific player earlier this week along with fellow midfielder Ally Lemos.

Goaltender Lauren Brzykcy (0.847 saving throw percent), defenseman Lilly Reale and forward Reilyn Turner (nine goals, 21 points) were each named to the All-Pacific First Team. Collectively, the team beats opponents 421-174 this season and beats them 62-12.

Equally important, Fontes is also part of a six-strong senior class that was instrumental in establishing the culture of first-year coach Margueritte Aozasa.

“They were the biggest catalyst that helped us build trust within the team and I couldn’t thank them more for that,” said Aozasa. “As older players who were only supposed to be trained by us for a maximum of 10 months, they didn’t have to do that.”

The Bruins will be tested from top to bottom in Friday’s NCAA semifinals against an Alabama team that has bested their opponents’ 528-219 season and is averaging 20 shots per game.

The Crimson Tide ranks second in the nation on offense with 2.92 goals per game. UCLA is seventh with 2.70 goals.

Forward Riley Mattingly Parker leads Alabama with 41 points (17 goals, seven assists) and ranks sixth in the NCAA for total goals. Midfielder Felicia Knox leads the NCAA in assists with 20 plus seven goals.

“They are fit, they are athletic,” said Fontes. “These are good opponents. Our team is ready and we are excited.”

Aozasa is in her freshman year at UCLA, having guided Stanford to NCAA titles as an assistant coach in 2017 and 2019. She is currently one of five Asian-American head coaches in NCAA women’s soccer and the only coach this year at the College Cup.