Soccer Team in NCAA Final

Dec. 13 -- The Bruins men's soccer team have had a magical ride so far in the NCAA Tournament, winning in overtimes, and did it again Friday. Now it's just one victory away from #113...

Courtesy of UCLA Athletics:

Cary, N.C. – The UCLA Bruins went the distance, and then some, going all the way to double overtime to beat the Providence Friars, 3-2, on Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park. A Chase Gasper volley that deflected into the net in the 105th minute sealed the Friars fate and lifted the Bruins into the College Cup Finals for the ninth time in school history.

“Tonight’s match was a microcosm of basically what our postseason has been like,” said UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo. “We had some moments of real quality and we had some moments with some difficulties in the match, but I attribute the challenging moments that we had to the quality of the opponent that we had. Providence was a very, very good team. It was a great game and both teams should be proud of their performances and I expect the championship, the national final against Virginia, to be a fantastic soccer game.”

An intense back-and-forth affair, the game got off to an exciting start with both teams creating quality chances early on. Just four minutes in, the Bruins looked like they would strike early. Abu Danladi took on a defender from the left side of the box and attempted a hard low pass across the face of goal. The ball was deflected out right to an on-charging Jordan Vale who lifted the ball high over the target, preventing UCLA from grabbing the early advantage.

UCLA (14-4-5) would however break the scoreless knot with a goal just minutes before the halftime whistle. Off of a throw-in, midfielder Leo Stolz (Pictured above) received the throw and proceeded to lead Danladi down the right sideline where the Bruins created an outnumbered attack. Danladi fed a through ball into Larry Ndjock who turned and took a shot that was originally denied by the Providence goalkeeper. Ndjock then corralled the rebound and buried the ball into the back of the net for his sixth goal of the season, and first of the playoffs, to give UCLA the 1-0 halftime edge.

Providence (16-5-2) began the second half as the aggressors and spent much of the early going in the Bruins’ defensive third. The Friars eventually equalized in the 65th minute when sophomore Mac Steeves got his head on the end of a cross for his 10th goal of the season. The header was solid and directed towards the top of the net where Earl Edwards Jr. was unable to keep the ball out despite getting a touch on it.

10 minutes later, Steeves struck again for the Friars to give them their first lead of the contest. Providence served a cross into the penalty area where the ball was deflected away towards the back post. Steeves located the ball in the air and volleyed it firmly into the far side of the net to stun the Bruins and give his team the late second half lead.

In need of an answer, UCLA began to press and send more men forward into the attacking third. With time running down, it was Ndjock yet again in the right spot to save the day for UCLA. Sophomore Brian Iloski got the play started by making a run with the ball down the right side of the field. As Iloski approached the penalty area, he threaded a pass through to Danladi in behind the Friar defense. Danladi took a touch towards the end line and attempted to cross the ball back in front of the net, but the pass was deflected high in the air off of a sliding tackle from the Providence center back. The ball floated towards the far post where Ndjock exhibited true class by tucking a header inside the opposite side post to bring the Bruins even at two.

For the second match in a row, extra time was needed to decide a victor. The first overtime session was unable to produce a goal, but in the second 10 minute segment, a winner was crowned.

UCLA earned a corner kick with just five minutes remaining until a possible penalty kick ending. Stolz took the corner and served a ball into a crowded box where it was headed out to the top of the penalty area. The freshman, Gasper, eyed the ball and squared up a volley which he struck hard with his left foot. The shot deflected off of a Providence player and into the goal to officially send UCLA back to the College Cup Finals.

In the finals, the Bruins will face the Virginia Cavaliers, who defeated UMBC, 1-0, in the other national semifinal on Friday. UCLA has never lost to Virginia in postseason play, including a victory over them in the 1997 College Cup Finals. In three previous postseason match-ups, UCLA has not conceded a goal and has outscored the Cavaliers 8-0 in total.

The NCAA Tournament Finals will be broadcast live on ESPNU and opening kick is set for 9:00am PT.

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