On a foggy night in Westwood, the Bruins’ goal was crystal clear – beat their crosstown foes and secure the Pac-12 crown.
Heading into the match, No. 8 USC (13-3-2, 8-1-2 Pac-12) was two points above No. 3 UCLA Women’s Soccer (16-0-3, 8-0-3) in the conference standings, just needing a draw to clinch the conference title. The Bruins, however, needed a win to stake claim to their second consecutive Pac-12 championship, and that is just what they did in a late Friday night contest, winning 3-1 and finishing the regular season undefeated.
Sophomore forward Reilyn Turner continued her high-scoring campaign, adding a 10th goal to her name, and graduate Olivia Athens came away with a goal and victory against the Trojans in her final regular season match after five years with the Bruins.
UCLA got off to a fast-paced start, wasting very little time to get involved in the attacking half. With seven shots attempted by the Bruins in the opening half, those chances forced the Trojans’ defense into an uncomfortable position, conceding multiple scores early.
Turner, the former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, sent the Bruins and the sellout home crowd into an early craze against their cardinal and gold rivals. As the clock hit the start of the 18th minute, freshman defender Lily Reale struck a shot into the crowded penalty box, but the ball deflected off a Trojans defender, sending Turner into an onside position and ultimately giving the Bruins the early 1-0 lead.
Trojan defenders made appeals for the goal to be overturned by officials, but they upheld their decision, keeping the goal as called on the field.
In 2018, a then-sophomore Athens scored a golden goal in the 105th minute to defeat the Trojans 3-2 in the final regular season match of that season. Friday night, Athens added yet another memorable chapter to her extended collegiate career.
Five minutes after Turner’s opening score Friday, Athens added a second to the scoreboard.
Turner sent a high cross from within the box, meeting an acrobatic backheel effort from Athens, clipping herself clear on goal. It was between Athens and USC goalkeeper Anna Smith on how the chance would turn out. Athens capitalized and scored, with the ball soaring over the arms of Smith and into the net to give the Bruins a 2-0 cushion.
It marked another goal on the tally for Athens against USC, this time contributing to a conference-clinching effort on her home turf.
In the second half, the Trojans made a late effort to get back into the match. A failed tackle in the penalty box from Reale in the 78th minute allowed forward Penelope Hocking to attempt a penalty kick, and shed buried a strike past senior goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy into the bottom right corner of the net.
The comeback effort for the Trojans, however, was short-lived. In the 83rd minute, graduate midfielder Marley Canales took a corner, sending it deep into the box like her many other attempts throughout the season. This one slipped into the back corner of the net for an Olimpico goal though, and it all but ended things by making it 3-1 Bruins.
The Trojans’ backline signaled for an interference call to be called on the Bruins, but none seemed to be visible on the play.
Brzykcy only had to make two saves in the 90 minutes of action, a testament to the defensive structure coach Amanda Cromwell had the Bruins set up in throughout the match.
Playing four at the back, not many chances came the Trojans’ way. Timely tackles from junior defender Kylie Kerr, freshman defender Quincy McMahon and Reale stopped most threatening attacks.
So for the second year in a row, UCLA sits alone atop the Conference of Champions.
UCLA will now turn its attention to the NCAA Tournament, where it is likely that Wallis Annenberg Stadium will play host to Regional matches. The Division I NCAA Women’s Soccer Selection Show will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Monday and will be available to watch via stream on NCAA.com.