UCLA Dominates UConn

Sept. 10, 2006

By Caley Cook
Special To CSTV.com


LOS ANGELES - UCLA has always had a tight grip on a West Coast men's soccer dynasty. But in the last decade, the UCLA women are starting to build an empire of their own.


The sixth-ranked Bruins took advantage of sluggish No. 11 UConn Sunday in a 3-0 blowout win in the final game of the UCLA Women's Cup at Drake Stadium. The win topped off a successful weekend for the Bruins, who also beat third-ranked Texas A&M, 2-1, Friday.


The Bruins played powerful, confident soccer, firing off 13 shots and holding the Huskies in their defensive third for most of the game. The return of five players who were competing in Russia for the U.S. U-20 World Championship team didn't hurt things, either.


"Most teams have had five games to get into the groove and we just got our full starting lineup back this weekend," Bruins head coach Jillian Ellis said. "We got better in the second half and we stretched the field and the back line a bit. We kept possession and kept the ball moving, which was our goal going into the second half."


In her first weekend back on the field for the Bruins, Danesha Adams dominated the offensive half with three goals and an assist. The Huskies weren't quite sure what to do with her on Sunday.


"Danesha really has skills and now that she has a structure of people to combine with up top, she is very dangerous," Ellis said.


If Adams and her cohorts continue to give these types of dominating performances, the rest of the Pac-10, and the nation, are in big trouble. Goalkeeper Valerie Henderson nullified any chances that landed in the 18-yard box Sunday and directed the back line with wartime precision. Freshman forward Lauren Cheney, who scored her second goal in two games Sunday, seemed to add a spark when she combined with Adams and the midfield.


But it was an enthusiastic performance from sophomore midfielder Christina DiMartino that points to a solid future for this Bruin squad. DiMartino was constantly in the midst of play, barely missing on a few shots, and distributing efficiently from the middle.


"Having her there beneath the forwards just made things work," Adams said. "She helped us out a lot today and she produced some really good chances for us to finish."


Action was slow to develop in the first part of the game, but a barely missed one-on-one between DiMartino and UConn goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe broke the game open. While UCLA dominated through the first half, they didn't put the ball away until the 48th minute when Adams bent home a bouncer in the box. The UConn back line was there to clear it off the line, but not in time. The UCLA offense stayed quiet for another 20 minutes before Cheney hammered home a right-side cross from Mary Castelanelli. Just seconds later, Adams chased down a loose ball and beat Labbe one-on-one.


There weren't as many bright spots for the Huskies. The team looked lethargic after losing in double-overtime to third-ranked Santa Clara Friday. Luckily, the Huskies' schedule looks a little easier going into next week, with matches against Providence and Central Connecticut on the slate. 


"There were some redeeming qualities today," UConn head coach Len Tsantiris said. "But we have some things to work on."


UCLA's wins this weekend gives the team some momentum going into tough matches with No. 4 Santa Clara and Pepperdine next week. The return of Adams, Cheney, DiMartino, Henderson and sophomore defender Erin Hardy after the U-20 World Championships is strengthening an already solid starting lineup.


The preseason No. 1 Bruins moved back into the top-five of polls this week after a rough season-opening loss to Penn State and they will probably move up even further after this weekend.


"We need to be clicking by the time we get to conference, at least that's our goal," Ellis said. "We're so good individually, but now we have to work as a team."


And just as talk of a new reigning West Coast soccer school buzzes around her, Ellis is quick to put those whispers of a dynasty to rest.


"Sure, UCLA is making a mark, more and more," Ellis said. "But you can't talk about being a dynasty until you win four championships. We're just building a team that we know can be successful now, to win that national championship this season, and then we can look beyond that later."



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