Connecticut knocks off No. 1 UCLA in penalty kicks, goes to quarterfinals
LOS ANGELES -- For the third consecutive year, No. 10 Connecticut advanced to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals, moving past past No. 1 UCLA in penalty kicks 5-4 on Sunday evening at Drake Stadium. The Huskies move to 12-2-8 on the season, while the top-seeded Bruins finish 2013 with a 12-3-5 record. UConn will face eighth-seeded Virginia next at weekend Klöckner Stadium at 7 p.m. in the program’s 14th-ever Quarterfinal appearance.
The Huskies battled the Bruins to a 3-3 draw through 110 minutes of action before topping the Bruins in a penalty kick shootout. UConn extended its unbeaten streak to 17 matches. UConn now boasts a 22-9-7 NCAA tournament record under 17th-year head coach Ray Reid, who has led the Huskies to 16 consecutive national tournament appearances.
Junior keeper Andre Blake finished the contest with two saves and stopped two UCLA penalty kicks, helping propel the Huskies to their second consecutive penalty-kick shootout advancement.
"These are a resilient group of guys,” Reid said. “Down 2-0 to UCLA they could have quit but they kept battling. I'm so proud of them and happy that we've earned the right to play another match. We're excited to face a tough Virginia team later this week."
After UCLA jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin put UConn on the board in the 34th minute, scoring his team-leading 13th goal of the season to cut the UCLA lead to 2-1. His goal was set up by a cross by freshman defender Jakob Nerwinski, who sent the ball toward the right post of the UCLA goal. His cross found UConn’s Allando Matheson in the box and he was able to get his foot on the ball and fire a shot at Bruins keeper Earl Edwards Jr., who deflected the ball away right to Larin.
UCLA’s first score of the match came early in the first half when Bruins midfielder Felix Vobejda found the ball with space near the top right corner of the Connecticut box. Blake charged forward to confront Vobejda, but the flicked the ball past Blake right to the right post of the goal, where it deflected into the net.
A minute later, a Connecticut defender was called for a foul in the box, giving the Bruins a penalty kick. The Bruins took advantage of the chance as UCLA midfielder Leo Stolz buried the shot to give UCLA a 2-0 lead.
Connecticut evened the match in the 57th minute on a strike from freshman defender Kwame Awuah. After receiving the ball from Diouf, Awuah took aim at goal, ripping a shot from outside the top left corner of the box past Edwards Jr. and into the net. It was the first career collegiate goal for him as he became the third freshman to record a score for UConn this season.
The Bruins responded in the 60th minute when Stolz scored his second goal of the match. He found space a couple yards outside of the box and fired a ball that sailed past Blake and gave UCLA a 3-2 lead. It marked the first time in more than a year that the Husky defense had allowed more than two goals, dating back to Oct. 6, 2012 against Marquette.
UConn answered quickly in the 69th minute Larin netted his second goal of the match, scoring off a deflection in the box to even the score at three.
The Huskies had a couple of quality scoring chances in the first half starting in the 6th minute, when Zuniga found space in the UConn attacking third and sent a cross toward Matheson and UConn senior forward Mamadou Diouf in the box. Zuniga’s pass couldn’t connect with the two attackers as Edwards Jr. was able to come off the line and grab the loose ball.
In the 32nd minute, Diouf played a beautiful ball to a streaking Larin in the box. The ball found Larin in stride right in front on the goal, but he ripped a shot that sailed high over the net.
In the final minutes of regulation, UConn had two great chances at goal, both by Diouf. In the 88th minute, Diouf, a Dakar, Senegal native, fired a shot from just outside of the box that deflected off a UCLA defender’s foot and missed over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner kick, Diouf timed his jump perfectly and headed the ball toward the left corner of the net but a Bruins defender was on the end line and blocked the shot, sending the game into overtime.