Despite solid defense and a thwarted penalty kick attempt by sophomore goalie Jalen Tompkins, the Colorado Buffaloes women’s soccer team fell to No. 1 UCLA at Prentup Field in Boulder on Saturday by a final score of 2-0.
The Buffaloes held the Bruins scoreless for close to an hour, as both teams went into halftime without gaining much traction offensively.
“[The Bruins] are the No. 1 team in the country for a reason,” head coach Danny Sanchez said after the loss. “I thought we were defending well . . . I’m proud of the effort. It just wasn’t our day.”
In the opening minutes of the game, the Buffs did a good job of keeping the Bruins bottled up in their half of the field but as time went on, UCLA became increasingly aggressive in the offensive zone.
A perpetuating task for Colorado was keeping an eye on the Bruins’ star forward, Hailie Mace, who leads UCLA in goals. The attention paid to Mace was evident not only in Colorado’s efforts to limit her impact in the game but by Tompkins’ semi-constant yelling of “16!” (Mace’s number).
Senior defender Joss Orejel and junior midfielder Megan Massey coordinated for a solid shutdown of Mace early in the game as the Bruins pushed the ball into the danger zone near the net.
“[Mace] is so explosive [and] versatile,” Sanchez said. “She had one good chance but other than that I thought we did a really good job on her.”
Orejel and Massey both helped to alleviate some of the pressure that the Bruins put on the Buffs.
About 19 minutes into the game, Orejel sprinted to cut off UCLA’s Delanie Sheehan, who would have had a sure shot on goal, had the Buffs’ senior from Tustin, Calif. not made a nice play.
Later, after close to half an hour of the first half had transpired, Massey made a convenient clear of the ball out of the Buffs’ side of the field just in time for Colorado to sub in some fresh players.
Mace was far from phased by the attention given to her. At the 33-minute mark, she crept to within 15 feet of Tompkins and got a shot off, which luckily for the Buffaloes sailed high, missing the net.
Close to 36 minutes into things, freshman defender Hannah Cardenas made a great sliding defensive play near the net to deny the Bruins a scoring chance.
“We have a great defense,” Tompkins said. “We held them off and we competed with them. Their offense is great [and] that’s what they’re good at.”
The Buffaloes were stymied offensively for the majority of the game. Colorado managed just three shots, only one of which qualified for a shot on goal, which came off the foot of freshman midfielder Camilla Shymka with about six minutes remaining before halftime.
The Buffs’ lack of offense couldn’t have been more opposite of what the Bruins did in the game, as UCLA managed an impressive 18 shots, nine of which were shots on goal.
The Bruins got a golden opportunity just seconds shy of the 50-minute mark. A handball was called on the Buffs deep in their own zone so a penalty kick was awarded to UCLA’s Anika Rodriguez, but Tompkins read the direction of the shot like a book and blocked it for one of her seven saves on the day.
“I kind of had a feeling and I went for it,” Tompkins said. “I know [Rodriguez] personally from National camps; she’s one of my good friends. I went with my gut and it was right.”
The Bruins finally found the net at the 58-minute mark, as UCLA’s Ashley Sanchez snuck a shot past Tompkins on a feed from Rodriguez to go up 1-0.
The Buffaloes didn’t let the goal discourage them, as the team buckled down after going down and kept the Bruins honest for over 26 minutes.
But UCLA proved to be an offensive force that even a valiant defensive effort from the Buffs proved to be incapable of slowing down.
Sunny Dunphy scored one late for UCLA near the 85-minute mark that proved to be the final nail in Colorado’s coffin.
Despite the 2-0 deficit, the Buffs got their best scoring opportunity of the game when sophomore midfielder Taylor Kornieck crept in close to the net and sent off a rocket of a shot, which hit the top post of the goal and deflected back onto the field.
As the clock winded down, the Buffaloes were dealt one final blow, and it wasn’t in the form of a goal.
Junior midfielder Alex Vidger, who had received a yellow card near the 84-minute mark, received another yellow card with just 1:02 remaining in the game. The two yellow cards turned into a red card and an ejection for Vidger, who will miss Colorado’s next game at Washington State this upcoming Thursday.
The Buffaloes and Cougars will kick off from Pullman, Wash. on Thursday, Sept. 28. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo