LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The Pepperdine women's soccer team went down to the wire against top-ranked UCLA in an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 battle on Sunday afternoon, but fell 1-0 after an 88th minute goal.
The Bruin's Sam Mewis broke through for UCLA with less than three minutes to play after the Waves' defense had held the high-powered UCLA offense scoreless to that point. Hannah Seabert had a stellar night at the back end of the Pepperdine defense, making several highlight-reel saves to keep the Waves in the game.
The loss ends Pepperdine's postseason run in what was a remarkable campaign for the program. The Waves finish the year with a 16-3-4 record, good for the second most wins in Pepperdine history, and made the third ever Sweet 16 appearance for the program.
"This was an amazing group of girls and they fought their hearts out against a really good UCLA squad today," said head coach Tim Ward, who led the team to its eighth postseason appearance in his 17 years at the helm. "Our defense did an excellent job, as they have all year. We dodged a few bullets and Hannah bailed us out a few times, but overall, to hold UCLA to one goal in the 88th minute is pretty tough."
The Bruins, who haven't lost all year (21-0-2), came in scoring nearly three goals a game while giving up a total of four goals all season.
UCLA held the majority of possession in the first half, but the Waves created several chances on the counterattack, getting Lynn Williams (Fresno, Calif./Bullard HS) out on the break to send crosses in that the Bruins were just able to clear. UCLA took eight shots in the first half, forcing Seabert (Riverside, Calif./Woodcrest Christian HS) to make three saves, while the Waves got off two shots.
Pepperdine pushed the action early in the second, drawing an early corner and forcing UCLA keeper Katelyn Rowland to come out and knock the cross away on the set-piece. The Bruins responded by hitting one off the crossbar in the 61st minute, but The Waves came right back to set up Kristine Hilliard (North Ogden, Utah/Weber HS) for a good attempt at the top of the box which was saved by Rowland. Williams got an even better opportunity on a one-touch shot inside the box in the 67th minute, but the ball sailed high.
With time winding down, Seabert came up with arguably her most spectacular save of the game in the 84th minute. Darian Jenkins sent a header towards goal and Seabert dove to her right just off the line, getting a hand on the ball to send it wide.
Mewis would finally break-through for the home-team Bruins, turning on a ball inside the top of the box and sending it inside the left post for her 16th goal of the year. With the win, defending NCAA Champion UCLA moves on to face Virginia in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
"It's always tough to lose a game that late, but Mewis is a great talent and did a good job putting that one away. You have to give them credit," said Ward. "This was an amazing season and really one of the best groups I have ever been around. We got amazing leadership from our seniors all season and had some young talented athletes step up and contribute. This team really left a legacy."
Not only did the Waves put up the second most wins in program history, but they matched a Pepperdine record with 11 shutouts. Williams wraps up an all-time great individual career, finishing second in goals scored (39), first in game-winning goals (15), second in total points (102) and second in assists (24). The senior forward finishes 2014 with 14 goals (tied for second best single-season total), 10 assists (tied for best single-season total) and 38 total points (second best single-season total).
The Waves finished with the third lowest goals against average (0.67) in program history. Pepperdine picked up signature non-conference wins over North Carolina, Kentucky and USC (twice), and beat both Santa Clara, BYU and Portland en-route to six WCC wins. The Waves graduate seven players off this year's squad, but return the core of its stingy defense, including sophomore keeper Seabert.