Oct. 18, 2001
From Santa Clara Head Coach Jerry Smith
It was a good victory for us. I'm very happy.
The reason you bring these types of teams in on your schedule is to kind-of have a barometer of where you are. UCLA played in the national championship game last year. They have a good senior squad, they're ranked second, they're undefeated... so it's a chance to measure yourself against one of the top teams in the country. We're ranked third, but do we deserve that? Are we good enough? What are the weaknesses that we still have on our team? You play these teams to answer these questions. They exposed a couple of our weaknesses. We tried to do a little better in the second half, and we did, but UCLA showed us some things we need to work on. The idea is to play these teams so you can work on those weaknesses by the time you get to the NCAA playoffs, because that's when it really counts. Now, this was a playoff-like atmosphere, but UCLA knows they're going to play next week, we know we're going to play next week, even if we lose the game, so it doesn't quite have the same bite as a playoff game, but at the same time, there's a lot of intensity. This is as close as you can get to a playoff atmosphere. The more games you play like that, the more you're tested for the NCAA Championships and it doesn't feel like a new experience to you. We certainly come away from this game having accomplish that.
Overall, I was happy with our performance, particularly in the second half. One of the things that a team like UCLA will test you is your mental and physical toughness. There's a lot of teams that we play that we simply have a little bit better athletes, more skilled player, a little more experienced player... that's not the case with UCLA. They have great athletes, skilled players, so you have to pay attention to detail, you have to win 50-50 battles, instead of standing and tackling you have to slide and tackle, instead of scoring three goals on 35 shots, you have to score three on 16. Can you do that? And chances are, when you play a team like this, not only are you only going to get 16 shots, but they're pressure shots. Can you perform under pressure while somebody is in your face while you're trying to score. And I've to say we measured up just fine. Even though we exposed a couple of weaknesses we had in our game, overall, for a mid-way point in the season type of game I think we measured up very nicely tonight.
On the goals
One of the things we really work on is our set plays. When you get into tight games, it's set plays that can make a difference. Danielle's first goal was off a corner kick, one of Aly's was off a corner kick... you need to be able to execute in those situations. At the same time, we've given up some goals on defensive corner kicks and tonight we were rock-solid in that area. Those are some of the things we're working on in these type of games. I think we really came through really well.
The goal Aly scored in the run of play is just a class goal. She just had a perfect first touch. She couldn't have put it any more into the corner of the goal. I think it's much harder than people recognize. She makes it look easy, but the reason she is a player of the year candidate, the reason Danielle Slaton is a player of the year candidate is because they are some of the best players in the country, and they showed it today. Big-time players always step up in these big-time games and Aly and Danielle certainly did. Our whole team did well, but those two were real leaders out there for us today.
From Santa Clara Junior Midfielder Aly Wagner (2 goals, 1 assist tonight)
I thought the first half, we could have done better, definitely. We didn't seem like we were holding the ball on top of the game, but we had to take what they were giving us and that wasn't really the possession game. The first half, we did a really good job with the situation. In the second half, I don't know if they ran out of gas or what-not, but I think we definitely put more combinations together and were able to keep the ball longer, so I think our second half I was pleased with as a measuring stick of how far we are, but we still have a ways to go and UCLA is a great team. Just finishing our opportunities like that really makes a difference. It could have gone the other way, easily.
On her second goal of the night
The corner kick, I was trying to drive it in on the goalie, just because we had a player in there. It seemed like an opportunity. It just went in.
On being one of the best teams in the country
Who knows? I haven't seen all the teams play, but I know that there are great players on our team. Just everyday in practice, there's a high level of competition, so I think that says a lot about the type of players we bring to Santa Clara and the mentality they bring. It's intense everyday and every day, everybody's working to get better. Whether or not we're the most talented, we're a pretty hard-working group which can beat a talented team on any given day.