Go Joe Bruin takes an early look at the 2016 Women’s Soccer Season and the Bruins’ chance to bring another national championship home.
This year will mark UCLA Women’s Soccer Head Coach Amanda Cromwell’s fourth season with the Bruins and perhaps a return to the NCAA Championship Title.
Most of you know the Bruins finished 2015 with a losing season in both overall and Pac-12 play. Still, 2016 looks like the perfect time for the Bruins to turn things around and even win out. Here is why:
2015 Was A Transition Year
Under Coach Cromwell’s leadership, the UCLA Women’s Soccer team won its first national championship in 2013 and led the Bruins to a Pac-12 title and a Final Four appearance in 2014. The Bruins were also ranked 4th in the NSCAA preseason coaches’ poll for the 2015 season. So what went wrong?
“UCLA is in a transition year” is something we mostly hear about the Football team, but this time, it certainly rings true for the Futbol program.
After the 2014 season, the Bruins saw six players selected in the 2015 NWSL Draft. Out of those six players, three were picked in the top five. To put the Class of 2014 in perspective, the 2016 NWSL season kicked off in April with nine UCLA Bruins on active rosters, meaning the 2015 draftees make up two thirds of our current players in the NWSL.
The 2015 NWSL Draft was the most successful in UCLA Women’s Soccer history, and it showed the program is headed in the right direction. However, with six highly talented players gone, the Bruins saw their prior success under Cromwell’s direction suffer.
Key Talent Is Back
Despite losing six stars and watching its winning record plummet, UCLA has some key talent returning.
On offense, the Bruins will have Forwards Darian Jenkins, the Bruins’ top scorer in 2013 and 2015, and MacKenzie Cerda, who by the way, is only a Sophomore. Midfielder Annie Alvarado, who was UCLA’s third top scorer last season and the team captain, will also return.
On defense, the Bruins can count on Gabbi Miranda, who has played with the U-17 and U-20 US Soccer teams, to make her presence felt in 2016. Defender/Forward Hailie Mace, a U.S. Youth National Team camp participant, will also be returning to add experience to the Bruins roster.
No. 1 Freshman Class
Although experience is great, the most exciting thing about the upcoming season for the Bruins is boasting the No. 1 freshman class in the nation, and some would even say the greatest recruiting class in NCAA Women’s Soccer history.
The Class of 2016 will have two players with experience at the national level, including U.S. soccer player Mal Pugh, and Jessie Fleming, who played with the Canadian team in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
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Also joining the Bruins are Marley Canales, Sunny Dunphy, Jayce Pederson, and Kaiya McCullough, all U.S. Youth National Team members.
The final addition is JUCO All-American Julia Hernandez, a transfer from Eastern Florida State College and a Madrid native. Hernandez, who enrolled at UCLA this past spring, already showed her caliber by scoring three goals during the spring season.
The signs are all there: a proven Coach, an experienced roster, and incredible new talent. Do not be surprised if the Bruins debut in the Top 10 of the NSCAA preseason coaches’ poll, even after finishing the 2015 season unranked. The Bruins have everything they need to make it to the National Championship this year and bring the second NCAA trophy home.
The UCLA Women’s Soccer fall schedule will be released next month.