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Arizona soccer looks for improbable upset vs. No. 1 UCLA

The Wildcats are 1-22 all-time vs. the Bruins, with that win coming all the way back in 2004

Photo courtesy Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics

The last time the Arizona Wildcats beat the UCLA Bruins in soccer was Halloween of 2004.

That was the first, and only, time Arizona has beaten UCLA, too — or even tied them.

UCLA is 22-1 all-time vs. Arizona, outscoring the Wildcats 80-10 since 1994.

"They’re a great team and we haven’t had the best track record in the past playing them, and so I think it’s just their name is what gets us sometimes,” former UA midfielder Jaden DeGracie-Bailey said last year.

To be fair, nobody has a good track record against UCLA these days. The Bruins enter Sunday’s game at Arizona with an 11-0-1 record (4-0 Pac-12) — one of three unbeaten teams remaining in college soccer.

UCLA is outscoring opponents 31-8 this season and, needless to say, has a loaded roster, including several national team players, four of whom have earned call-ups to their full national teams — Jessie Fleming (midfielder, Canada), Teagan Micah (goalie, Australia) and freshmen Ashley Sanchez (forward, U.S.) and Kennedy Faulknor (defender, Canada).

Fleming has been selected to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. That award is presented annually to the most outstanding male and female players of the year.

Only a sophomore, Fleming has five goals this season.

Junior forward Hallie Mace has 11 goals this season, the most in the Pac-12, and tied for fourth in the nation.

The Wildcats have been on the losing end of a few blowouts against UCLA since Tony Amato took over the program in 2013, but last year, Arizona took UCLA to double overtime, where the Bruins escaped with a 2-1 win in Tucson.

“We were really proud of the score we put up," UA midfielder Kelcey Cavarra said after that game. "Obviously, UCLA is a huge factor in the Pac-12 and the fact that we held them at a 1-1 tie for a while and just stuck with the game after we scored was huge for us. Our coaches were proud.”

Arizona has a lot to be proud of heading into Sunday’s match, too.

The Wildcats took No. 6 USC to double overtime Thursday, before finally losing on a penalty kick in the 108th minute.

It was another strong performance for Arizona, which has fared well against all the top Pac-12 teams this year.

After drubbing Oregon 3-1 in their Pac-12 opener, the Wildcats lost 1-0 to No. 2 Stanford, beat No. 11 Cal, then went toe-to-toe with No. 6 USC for 108 minutes.

Arizona is 5-4-2 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12 this season, but they believe they’re better than their record indicates — even if others may not.

“I think people have been used to Arizona not making the NCAA Tournament every year,” Amato said. “It’s our job to get in every year and change that. We’ve had a really good start over the last few years and we’ve got to make it that it’s obvious that people can’t estimate where we are as a program.”

Arizona can do that by making the NCAA Tournament regularly and beating, or even tying, Pac-12 powerhouses like UCLA on a consistent basis — not just competing with them.

Amato reckons that day is near, and Sunday at noon is the UA’s next chance to take that next step as a program.

“I think we’ll get to a point where these games feel like we definitely can win them,” Amato said. “It felt that way (vs. USC), so we don’t feel that far away.”


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire