This year in Pac-12 women's soccer
UCLA Wins First-Ever NCAA National Championship
No. 2 seeded UCLA’s 2013 NCAA Tournament run ended the way it only does for one team each year--with a win--and for the Bruins it was the first time they wrapped up their season with a W--and a National Championship. The road to their first College Cup final victory was anything but easy, as UCLA had to go through conference foe and the 2012 Pac-12 Champion Stanford Cardinal, the defending National Champion North Carolina Tar Heels, the ACC champion Virginia Cavaliers and finally the ACC runner-up Florida State Seminoles. It was nothing short of impressive as the Bruins took down three number one seeds, playing in three-straight overtime games and scoring golden goals in two of them and advancing on penalty kicks in another. No. 2-ranked UCLA entered the 2013 College Cup without giving up a goal in the tournament, but No. 1 Virigina presented a tough test. After 70 plus minutes of no scoring, Viginia did what only seven teams have been able to do against the Bruins--score a goal--on an errant back pass that was intercepted before reaching keeper Katelyn Rowland. In only the third game they had trailed all season, UCLA never gave up and put the pressure on the Cavalier defense. Just when it seemed liked they were running out of time, junior defender Ally Courtnall snuck behind the defense and slipped a shot past the keepr to tie things up and eventually send the game to overtime. After two scoreless periods, the game went to penalty kicks to determine who would play for the coveted national championship against Florida State. It was Rowland who was the hero this time, making two saves to give Rosie White the opportunity to seal it, and she did, giving her team a 4-2 advantage. On Sunday, the conditions in Carey, N. C. worsened with cold temperatures and freezing rain but UCLA did not let the conditions disrupt their game as they dominated possesion and outshot the Seminoles 18-5; however they were unable to find the net in regulation. With three minutes left in the first overtime period, forward Kodi Larusky took a perfectly-placed through ball from Megan Oyster and slotted it into the back of the net past the keeper and the celebration ensued. The Bruin’s first-ever NCAA title was the 110th for UCLA Athletics, who owns the most championships of any Division 1 program in NCAA history. The Bruins and Seminoles have appeared in more College Cups than any other teams since 2003, with UCLA making eight appearances, and it was the Bruins who finally saw their ultimate goal come fruition in 2013.
THIS YEAR IN PAC-12 WOMEN’S SOCCER
It was an exciting, unpredictable yet ultimately predictable year in Pac-12 Women’s Soccer in 2013. Entering the year, Stanford had run the table in the Pac-12, winning the Conference title for four-straight years, including a natioanl championship in 2011. But key losses to graduation left the Cardinal vulnerable, and the coaches agreed that this could be the year that the Cardinal would be knocked off the Conference pedestal, picking UCLA as the preseason favorite despite the Bruins losing their coach to the U.S. U-17 National Team. First-year head coach Amanda Cromwell inherited a young, but talented team that fell just short of the College Cup in 2012 and they had their sights set on their first Pac-12 title since 2009. During the non-conference slate several Pac-12 teams proved just how deep the Conference would be in 2013, with three teams going unbeaten out of Conference and the Pac-12 accumulating a 69-28-17 non-conference record, including five wins over ranked teams.
Pac-12 play began at the end of September and it was quickly clear that no team could take a day off in this Conference. Twenty one Conferences games went to overtime in a year marked by strong keeper play and solid defense. While UCLA maintained strong footing atop the standings throughout the entirety of the year, it was the shuffle below the Bruins that really came to surprise this year. Stanford’s 1-0 loss to Arizona State in early October marked the first time they had lost a Conference match since 2008 and a home match since 2007. Every week at least one team would surprise or one team would survive in the close games that dotted the schedule. While UCLA clinched their 11th Conference title in their second-to-last game of the season, it took until the very last game to determine the order of finish below the Bruins. Washington State, Utah and Colorado were the biggest winners in 2013, finishing second, third, and sixth after being picked sixth, ninth and tenth, repsectively, in the preseason poll. It was the Cougars’ highest Conference finish ever. Washington State also garnered two of the top three postseason honors, with senior forward Micaela Castain earning Pac-12 Player of the Year and third-year coach Keidane McAlpine winning Pac-12 Coach of the Year. UCLA freshman forward Darian Jenkins was also honored as the Freshman of the Year.
Six teams advanced to the NCAA tournament (UCLA, Stanford, California, Colorado, Utah and Washington State), with UCLA, Stanford and Washington State hosting first round games. It was the first time the Cougar’s had hosted a NCAA tournament game since 2000. Unfortunately, the Cougars went down on penatly kicks for the second-straight year while Utah lost to Texas A&M in overtime and California went down to Santa Clara. Colorado, despite finishing sixth in the Pac-12, notched two upsets over Denver and BYU to reach the round of 16 before falling to Florida State. Stanford took care of business against Cal State Fullerton then kocked off fourth-seeded South Carolina, only to come face-to-face with UCLA. The Cardinal and Bruins met in the tournament for the third time in the last four years, but it was the Bruins who came away win the win for the first time when facing Stanford in the postseason. The rest, as they call it, is history as the Bruins went on to take down three-straight ACC powerhouses en route to their first-ever NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship, the third title overall for the Pac-12.