After finally coming out on top of a penalty shootout after years of heartbreak, UConn's reward is a trip across the country to take on #1 seed UCLA in a game that many circled as a must-see as soon as the NCAA tournament brackets were announced.
Both teams appear to be getting hot at just the right time. For UConn, the Huskies have not lost in regulation since September and are on a 16 game unbeaten streak, outscoring opponents 30-10 over that stretch. UConn has been lead by freshman Cyle Larin, who has 12 goals on the season so far. Goalkeeper Andre Blake, a junior, has been terrific in the net again this season, currently 7th in the country in goals against average and tallying 10 shutouts on the season.
For UCLA, their record currently stands at 12-3-4, and boast wins against #2 Washington, #4 Cal, and #10 UCSB. In their last 5 games, all wins, the Bruins outscored opponents 13-3. UCLA has leaned on forward Victor Chavez and midfielder Leo Stolz, who have 8 and 9 goals respectively on the season. Earl Edwards Jr. mans between the sticks for the Bruins and has seven clean sheets on the season.
To pull the upset, UConn will depend on its defense and counter attack, something they've been better about of late as the team rounds into form after a number of injuries during the heart of the season. The build up in the middle has been orchestrated by Larin and junior Adria Beso, with senior Mamadou Diouf up top with a great ability to hold up play and create chances. Diouf is lethal in the air on corners and set pieces and will look to break free from the UCLA defense and finish at the net in his last tournament run as a Husky.
A strong UConn LA Alumni contingent should be in force at Drake Stadium to cheer on the Huskies as they try to play the Cinderella role of the tourney and break through to the quarterfinals. For everyone else, the match will be broadcast on 91.7 WHUS, game time 8pm EST.