Pepperdine, San Diego Eliminated By UCLA in NCAA Soccer Tournament


It was a tough Sunday for the West Coast Conference as both San Diego Men’s Soccer and Pepperdine Women’s Soccer were knocked out of the NCAA Soccer Tournament by the UCLA Bruins. The #4 seeded Waves fell 1-0 to the #1 seeded Bruins to start the day in a Sweet Sixteen match, and later the Toreros fell to the #2 seeded Bruins 2-1 on an overtime goal in the second round.

The losses end the season for both schools and the WCC as they were the two remaining schools from the conference left in the postseason field. The Waves received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and were one of three WCC teams to make it along with WCC Champions BYU and San Diego. The Cougars and Toreros did not advance past the first round. The Waves won their first round match in dramatic fashion over USC on penalty kicks before cruising to a 4-0 win over Illinois State in the second round.

San Diego was the only men’s team from the WCC to make the postseason after claiming the WCC Championship. They won a dramatic first round match over Cal State Fullerton picking up a game-tying goal off a penalty kick late in regular time before winning it 2-1 in overtime on another penalty kick goal. The Toreros are now 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament over the past three seasons after reaching the Elite Eight in their last appearance in 2012.

Both teams played extremely well against one of the best programs in the country in the UCLA Bruins. Pepperdine pushed the Bruins all the way to the limit holding off a barrage of attacks before finally conceding the winning goal with just minutes left in regular time. It was a stark contrast to the first two games of the tournament where the Bruins destroyed their opponents with 5-0 and 7-0 final scores. The Bruins are rarely held to such a low goal total, and the Waves nearly pushed it all the way to overtime in an amazing effort against the defending national champions.

The Waves had their opportunities, and in the second half they were able to build momentum and spend more time in the opposing half of the field. But the Bruins had more consistent opportunities, so it was a credit to the stout defense of the Waves and goalkeeping of Hannah Seabert that they went over 87 minutes without conceding a goal. After struggling in WCC play after the strong start to the year, the Waves rallied in the postseason and can be proud of their Sweet Sixteen run and hanging with the best team in the nation.

The Toreros also fought hard and gave the Bruins everything they could handle. They obviously came in confident and aggressive knowing they had already beaten the Bruins once this season. The Toreros upset UCLA 1-0 when the Bruins were #1 in the nation back in September. And it appeared it might be a repeat on Sunday when the Toreros got an early goal. That goal stood up until the second half when UCLA was able to equalize, and the game eventually remained tied 1-1 and went to overtime. During the first OT period the Bruins pushed another goal through to win the match and leave the Toreros heartbroken.

But like the Waves, the Toreros gave a valiant effort and were in the match the entire time. That’s the big takeaway for Pepperdine, San Diego, and the WCC from these matches. The Bruins are far and away the best team in the nation in women’s soccer, and they are in the conversation as the best in the nation in men’s soccer. To be playing in high-pressure matches at UCLA on the same day, it could have gotten very ugly for both teams. But not only did they hang with the Bruins, both teams played confident and very much had chances to win their matches. While they didn’t get the upsets, it was a great showing and proves both teams are among the elite programs in California and on the West Coast.

Going forward, both teams have helped put themselves on the map and set themselves up for success. Both have players they will need to replace, but the future is bright. For Pepperdine, the big loss will be offensive leader Lynn Williams. She was amazing in the UCLA and set up some opportunities with beautiful passes as well as doing everything she could to get a goal through.

But the Waves do return much of their stout defense including goalkeeper Hannah Seabert and defender Hailey Harbison, the WCC Freshman of the Year. The Waves can again build on strong defense and a solid offense next season, and this big season will be a big recruiting tool to reloading for the future.

The Toreros meanwhile are even further along in their development as an elite program. Much of their success this season was built off their 2012 Elite Eight run including key veterans that were on the 2012 team and quality recruits who were attracted to USD after watching them make that run two years ago. The Toreros will lose a lot like WCC Player of the Year Connor Brandt and WCC Defender of the Year Julian Ringhof, but they have built a young and dangerous core of returning players.

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Goalkeeper Thomas Olsen was a revelation and is just getting his career started after being named WCC Freshman of the Year. And other key players like All-WCC selections Torry DeArmas and Darragh Vieyra will be back next year. This is also combined with incoming freshmen next season and beyond who will be very impressed by these two NCAA Tournament runs over the past three years. The quality of recruits being attracted to USD has certainly improved, and now it will improve even more.

It was a great season for the WCC in soccer with two teams left at the end that went out with valiant efforts. The WCC continues to be a premier soccer conference among the soccer superpowers of the West Coast region.