UCLA's Season Ends in PK Shootout
Cary, N.C. – No. 3 seed UCLA used more of its comeback magic against No. 14 seed Clemson, scoring in the 87th minute to send the game to overtime. But the magic ran out after two overtime periods and a lengthy lightning delay, as the Bruins lost in a penalty kick shootout, 6-5, to eliminate the Bruins from the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 16.
For the fourth consecutive game, the Bruins had to come from behind late. After allowing a 53rd minute goal by Samantha Meredith, UCLA found itself on the brink of elimination once again. And much like the Bruins' second round game against Iowa, they found the equalizing goal in the final five minutes, this time tying the game at 86:53 on an Olivia Athens header. Athens scored after Reilyn Turner's shot off a corner kick hit the post and rebounded right to her in front of the goal.
With Clemson bunkering down on defense in the overtime periods, the game went to a shootout, where the Tigers made all of their penalty kicks for the second consecutive game. Tiger goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff made one save in sudden death, stopping the Bruins' sixth shot after five straight makes from Athens, Aislynn Crowder, Delanie Sheehan, Lucy Parker and Marley Canales.
"It's a brutal game sometimes, it's not a fair game sometimes, and it's an exciting game sometimes because of it," said UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell. "They were in the game because they were able to get numbers on the ball, sit back and make it hard for us. In the game of soccer, the most dominant team doesn't always win. It's a hard, true fact. We had (26) shots, played some of the best soccer we played all year. It's heartbreaking."
The Bruins had a multitude of chances to win in regulation, but Hancuff was up to the task, making nine saves. The Tiger defense also made two team saves, including one in the 34th minute off a Mia Fishel shot with Hancuff off her line. The Tigers nearly scored right after that save, but Karina Rodriguez made a huge defensive play to stop the counterattack. Rodriguez had made a backline save of her own in the 11th minute, clearing a Jackson Moehler shot off the line by the left post.
UCLA ends the season with a 13-1-3 record and will go into the fall season as the reigning Pac-12 champions.
"I'm just proud of this team for the whole season," Cromwell said. "You go back to August and everything that they've done and sacrificed, the discipline that they had. When other teams were getting shut down with COVID, we never did. This team showed true love and care for each other. I'm most proud of that. I'm most proud of them having each other's backs and stepping up for each other, scoring late goals and always having belief."