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Women's Soccer Game of the Week preview: UCLA at Washington

Oct 1, 2015
Washington Athletics / UCLA Athletics

Who: UCLA at Washington

When: Thursday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks with Jim Watson and Aly Wagner on the call.

The Pac-12 Networks' Women’s Soccer Match of the Week series begins on Montlake, where the Huskies hope to have a say in dethroning back-to-back conference champion UCLA.

The Story So Far: UCLA (5-4-0, 1-0-0 Pac-12)

The 5-4-0 start isn’t what you’d expect out of a UCLA team that won the 2013 national championship and went undefeated in the 2014 regular season, but all things considered, it looks like head coach Amanda Cromwell has the new-look Bruins headed in the right direction. The third-year UCLA commander-in-chief has had to mix and match lineups all season long, trying to figure out the right combination for a squad that had to replace nine of its starting 11 from 2014.

Having to play national powers like No. 1 Virginia and No. 4 North Carolina didn’t allow the Bru Cru to ease into the new season, but they did pick up a couple of top-20 wins along the way, defeating No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 19 Pepperdine on a penalty kick in the final minute of regulation. Speaking of which – you like drama? You’ll like watching the Bruins, then – eight of their nine matches have been decided by one goal. UCLA enters the Thursday night tilt winners of three of its last four, most recently holding on for a 1-0 win over Oregon in the conference opener.

The Story So Far: Washington (7-2-1, 0-1-0 Pac-12)

While Cromwell has had to employ 19 different players in the starting lineup, consistency has been the name of the game for the Dawgs. 10 players have started all 10 games for the Huskies this year, and another one – midfielder Amanda Perez – has started nine of 10. That familiarity is at least partly why the Huskies were able to get the job done in non-conference play, winning seven in a row and going unbeaten in eight straight following a season-opening loss to No. 16 Kentucky. The Dawgs didn’t play as strenuous of an out-of-league schedule as UCLA did, but wins against perennial West Coast Conference and national power Portland and 2014 NCAA tourney-goer Seattle sprinkle the slate. The good vibes haven’t carried into the early part of the conference season yet, as Washington lost a tight 1-0 decision at Arizona in the Pac-12 opener.

Three Players to Watch: UCLA

  1. #14 Taylor Smith (Forward, Senior)  Welcome back to the lineup, Taylor. Smith, one of the two returning starters for the 2015 Bruins, returns to action following a two-game suspension for getting a red card against North Carolina. Third on the team with 24 points in 2014, the two-time All-Pac-12er is one of two Bruins to score twice this season. She’ll no doubt be rearing to get back to action Thursday night.
  2. #00 Arielle Schechtman (Goalkeeper, Redshirt Freshman)  Career starts for Arielle Shechtman: two. Career shutouts for Arielle Schechtman: two. The formula seems simple – as long as the redshirt freshman from Del Mar, California, starts, the Bruins will never give up a goal again and will therefore win every national championship from 2015-18. In all seriousness, Schechtman will give up a goal in a match in which she starts at some point (we think), but she has done a bang-up job in taking over for Cassie Sternbach. Schechtman was named the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week and to Top Drawer Soccer’s National Team of the Week last week for turning in a clean slate against the Ducks despite being peppered for a good chunk of the second half (she finished that contest with a career-high 10 saves).
  3. #10 Kodi Lavrusky (Forward, Senior)  Lavrusky has come through for the Bruins in the biggest of moments. As a sophomore, the former UCLA softball player scored the golden goal in the NCAA championship game against Florida State, giving the Bruins their first national title in women’s soccer and 110th for the athletic department. Lavrusky has one goal so far in 2015 and might play a bigger role on Thursday night if fellow forward Darian Jenkins is still unable to go (Jenkins, an eight-game starter so far this year, missed the Oregon game).

Three Players to Watch: Washington

  1. #1 Megan Kufeld (Goalkeeper, Redshirt Senior)  There aren’t too many people who can say their name is ahead of the best keeper in the world in the record books, but Megan Kufeld can. With a 2-0 win over UC Irvine on Sept. 13, Kufeld moved past USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo for the most career shutouts in UW history with 19. It’s easy to see how she has registered so many clean sheets when you watch her, as she can cover ground on the goal mouth very quickly. While the Dawgs had more shots on goal than Arizona last week, in some respects Washington was lucky to only lose 1-0 because Kufeld stood on her head to keep a couple of second-half shots out of the cage. 
  2. #15 Shannon Simon (Midfielder/Forward, Sophomore)  Simon has spearheaded the Husky offensive threat in 2015, leading the team with five goals, three assists and 13 points. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for Sept. 7-13 isn’t afraid to let ‘er rip beyond the 18 and nearly belted one past Arizona keeper Rachel Estopare in the second half of Washington’s shutout loss. Tied for second in the conference in goals, tied for third in points and tied for fifth in assists, Simon is having an all-conference-caliber campaign so far. #JustASophomore
  3. #17 Amanda Perez (Midfielder, Junior)  Perez has major international experience, having been named to the Mexico Women’s National Team roster for the 2015 FIFA World Cup along with her sister and UW alumna Veronica Perez. A team captain, Amanda is second on the team with three goals, two of which came in a 2-1 triumph over Louisville to give the Huskies their first win of the season.

Three Notes to Know

  1. Amanda Cromwell doesn’t lose conference games: Since taking over as UCLA head coach, Cromwell is 20-0-3 in Pac-12 play. The Bruins are riding a 23-match conference unbeaten streak and a national-best 11-match conference win streak heading into the trip to the Washington schools.
  2. Dean Gallimore: In her 22nd year at the helm on Montlake, Washington head coach Lesle Gallimore is the longest-tenured head coach in the Pac-12. In contrast, only two coaches in the Pac-12 – USC’s Keidane McAlpine and Washington State’s Todd Shulenberger – are newer to their current gigs than UCLA’s Amanda Cromwell.
  3. Crazy 8’s: Both UCLA and Washington have eight different players who have scored goals this year. That is in line with the rest of the conference; the average number of goal scorers for a Pac-12 women’s soccer team at this point in the 2015 season is 8.4.