The Bruins needed to be perfect, and they were.
With the game and season on the line, No. 1 seed UCLA women’s soccer (18-2-1, 9-2 Pac-12) came through with a win in penalty kicks to knock UCF (9-2-7, 7- 0-1 AAC) out in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday night. The Bruins swept the Knights in the shootout, beating them 3-0 after going through two overtime periods locked at 1-1.
Sophomore defender Jayden Perry, senior forward Sunshine Fontes and sophomore defender Lilly Reale each stepped up and converted on their spot kicks, while graduate goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy made a save and watched UCF’s other two tries hit the post and crossbar.
When Reale’s high shot found the back of the net, her teammates rushed in from the sideline and swarmed both her and Brzykcy as they embraced in victory.
It was a tense contest leading up to that raucous collective exhale by the Bruins’ home crowd.
The scoring opened in the 35th minute, when forward Kristen Scott sent a pass back to forward Dayana Martin towards the top of the box, and she one-timed it to put UCF up 1-0. At that point, goalkeeper Caroline DeLisle had already made two saves to hold UCLA off the board, and that ultimately helped her team take the first lead of the night.
It didn’t take too long for the Bruins to answer, though, as senior midfielder Jackie Gilday headed in a corner kick from freshman midfielder Ally Lemos in the 38th minute.
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Neither team scored again before half, nor did they come through in the entire second half. Brzykcy needed to make saves in the 61st, 65th, 84th and 90th minutes to keep the score knotted at 1-1, while DeLisle made saves in the 51st, 72nd, 79th and 87th.
DeLisle turned away UCLA’s only two shots on goal in the two overtime periods. UCF, meanwhile, opened up the first overtime with a real chance in the 93rd minute, but Brzykcy saved that one and didn’t face another opportunity for the rest of the match.
In the end, with neither attack converting down the stretch, it came down to the decisive penalty kicks. The last time UCLA needed penalty kicks to decide an NCAA tournament game, they lost to Clemson in the second round to conclude the delayed 2020 season. The time before that, they lost to North Carolina in the national quarterfinals back in 2018.
However, the Bruins broke that streak Friday night, and they cruised through the PKs en route to their most critical win of the year so far.
UCLA’s Round of 16 matchup with No. 4 seed Northwestern will kick off from Wallis Annenberg Stadium at 6 pm on Sunday.
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PHOTO COURTESY OF JESUS RAMIREZ/UCLA ATHLETICS