LOS ANGELES — The Cal women's soccer team kicked off Pac-12 play with a thrilling victory on Friday night, topping 7th-ranked UCLA, 2-1, at Wallis Annenberg Stadium in Westwood. The Golden Bears' (9-1-0, 1-0-0 Pac-12) prevailed when redshirt sophomore Kailee Gifford buried the game-winning goal in the 88th minute, one-timing a ball from senior forward Abi Kim. The victory, was the Bears' first over the Bruins (6-2-1, 0-1-0 Pac-12) since 2015 and marked Cal's first win over a Top-10 opponent since taking down No. 7 USC on the road in 2016. Luca Deza opened the scoring for the Golden Bears in the sixth minute, finishing with a strike to the far post off a corner kick. However, UCLA would quickly come up with the equalizer, as Marly Canales converted a penalty kick in the 11th minute.
"Let's first give credit to UCLA, they're a really well-coached and very talented team," said Cal head coach Neil McGuire, "I'm really proud of our players for hanging in there under immense duress. Our poise under pressure was impressive to see. We scored a great goal to win the game, and I'm just very happy for our players. We worked on set pieces this week, trying to take advantage of some spaces we thought they might offer us. We had a great goal from Luca Deza, it's good to see her on the score sheet. She is a tremendously talented player and I thought this was probably her best all-around performance in a Cal uniform. Seeing Kailee Gifford score a marvelous goal is rewarding. She came back from a long-term injury and it's great to see that smile on her face. I'm really pleased for both of them but more importantly, I'm really proud of the whole team."
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Looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season last Sunday vs Portland, Cal quickly got on the front foot, as the Bears earned a corner in the sixth minute. Senior Mia Corbin played a dangerous ball into the box that was cleared to Deza at the back post. The junior midfielder got a hold of the bouncing ball and tucked it inside the far post for her fourth goal of the season.
Cal's lead would be short-lived however, as the Bruins equalized less than 10 minutes later as Canales converted the penalty. UCLA outshot the Bears, 7-2, in the first half, but Cal goalkeeper Angelina Anderson came up with three saves to deny the Bruins in the run of play.
UCLA came out pressing to open the second half, outshooting the Bears 10-6 in the second half and holding a 11-4 advantage in corners after the break. However, Cal's stalwart defense would not be broken. Cal nearly scored the go-ahead goal in the 86th minute when Corbin got in on goal, but UCLA netminder Teagan Micah was able to come up with the save.
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The Bears broke through just moments later, when Kim, whose speed created problems along the wing - got onto a bouncing ball and used her pace to round the corner. Kim played a driven ball into the area that found its way to Gifford on the back post. The outside back one-time the ball with her left foot and buried her strike past a diving Micah. It was the second collegiate goal for Gifford, who was sidelined for the entirety of the 2018 season due to injury, while Kim picked up her fourth assist of the season, setting her single-season best.
The Bears return to Berkeley next week for their first homestand of Pac-12 play. Cal kicks things off on Thursday, hosting Washington at 3 p.m. PT before a Sunday clash against No. 21 Washington State (12 p.m. PT). Both matches will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.