Nothing was new for head coach Jorge Salcedo and the UCLA Bruins about the 2014 season. For the 32nd consecutive year, the Bruins found themselves in the postseason and are now in their 14th College Cup. The Bruins will be looking for their fifth national title. But first, they have a bout Friday night with the Providence Friars.
UCLA came out of the gates strong this season. Before the calendar hit October, the Bruins were out to a 5-2-2 start. October was highlighted by a four game win streak where the Bruins outscored their opponents 9-3. Heading into the 2014 NCAA tournament, the Bruins were 11-4-4. They had controlled the Pac-12 with a 6-2-2 record and were just as dominant on the road as they were at home.UCLA drew the No. 2 seed in the tournament and took on a tough road to the final four. All three of their foes en route to the College Cup had played the Bruins at least once during the regular season. Their first opponent was San Diego, a team UCLA had split the regular season match-ups with. Thanks to all-world senior Leo Stolz, UCLA won the rubber-match 2-1.
After falling to California’s No. 1 offense in the country twice this season, UCLA put it all together for a 3-2 victory in the third round. And then in the quarterfinals, UCLA and North Carolina faced off in what could arguably be the game of the tournament. North Carolina came into UCLA with the No. 2 offense in the country and after a back and forth battle ending in a 3-3 tie in the first 90 minutes, the two powerhouses drew even for two overtimes. It took eight rounds of penalty kicks, but the Bruins rose triumphant and are set to face Providence Friday night in Cary.
Leo Stolz is the leader of this Bruins squad. Just like he was in 2013, Stolz is one of the 2014 MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalists. He had a monster season, playing all 22 games scoring nine goals while adding six assists and totaling 24 points. He has been, as coach Salcedo said, “fiercely competitive in the 2014 playoffs,” as well. He has two assists and two goals, one being the game winner against San Diego thus far in the postseason.
Stolz is not the lone talent on this squad by any means. Senior keeper Earl Edwards, Jr. and sophomore defender Michael Amick joined Stolz on the First Team All-Pac-12. Edwards has 65 saves on the season, good for a career-best 0.90 goals against average. Freshman forward Seyi Adekoya grabbed second team all-conference honors and five Bruins received honorable mention honors, including senior defender Aaron Simmons who has earned all conference recognition in previous years as well.
Despite the experience and leadership of an annual postseason-ready team, freshman played a big part in the Bruins success this season. Forward Abu Danladi was ferocious on offense, finishing second on the team with 15 points behind five goals and five assists. Christian Chavez delivered a big goal in the quarterfinals against UNC and defenseman Chase Gasper has been solid from the left side all season, tallying one goal and four assists from the backfield.
Coach Salcedo has won as a player and an assistant coach. He now has a Bruins team back in the College Cup for the third time as a head coach. Is this the season that he gets the trifecta of College Cups? Providence’s high-scoring offense will do everything they can to prevent that, but Leo Stolz and the well-balanced Bruins will probably say otherwise.