By Calvin Westfall
The BYU women’s soccer team fell 1-0 to No. 1 UCLA in front of a South Field record crowd of 5,735 on Friday night in the first regular season meeting between the schools since 2010.
The evening also marked the first time a No. 1 team had visited South Field.
“I’m really proud of how our team battled tonight,” said BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood. “We knew we were up against an amazing opponent. I thought we did a fantastic job with our defense, holding a team like UCLA to one goal and being inches away from tying the game up a couple of times. I just think we have come a long way in the last week.”
BYU came out strong with several shots on goal early in the first half, only to have them smothered by Bruin goalkeeper Teagan Micah.
UCLA surged forward with a counterattack that resulted in junior forward Hailie Mace netting the only goal of the match in the 16th minute. Mace connected on a cross from sophomore midfielder Jessie Fleming, burying the ball in the upper left corner.
The Cougars fought back, driving down the pitch on various occasions, but were unable to finish on any of their nine shots on goal.
The Bruins responded to every surge, charging down both sides of the pitch during the first half and driving up the middle during the second, getting 17 shots off total.
Strong defensive performances from both sides provided for an exciting night at South Field. Rachel Bingham and Alyssa Jefferson provided exceptional pressure from the Cougar back line, and Cougar goalkeeper Hannah Clark had four saves.
The Cougars managed to hold the Bruins to just one goal, even though the Bruins averaged more than four goals in their first four games.
In addition to an otherwise exceptional defensive stand, BYU had several offensive opportunities, with forwards Elise Flake and Nadia Gomes and midfielder Bizzy Bowen each getting several shots off.
The best look of the night for the Cougars came in the 79th minute from Gomes as she played a long pass past her defender, before firing a rocket off the top of the crossbar in front of a diving Micah.
The would-be equalizer energized the record crowd, which cheered until the very end. BYU was unable to get one last shot on its final charge, and the ball bounced out of play as time expired.
With the loss, the Cougars drop to 0-2-2 on the season.
BYU will travel to No. 21 Colorado for a Labor Day showdown with the Buffaloes before returning home to host rival Utah next Friday.