The game of the week features the No. 4 ranked Arizona St. Sun Devils traveling to take on the No. 1 ranked UCLA Bruins. This is a huge game and it will be a good barometer to see if Arizona State is ready to compete, or possibly even win, against the best. Arizona State has never beaten UCLA in the history of their program, but this year's Arizona State team provides the best chance to get the upset.
In addition to UCLA being ranked No. 1 in the nation, the Bruins are 14-1 with their only loss coming in 9-5 defeat against the Stanford Cardinal earlier in the year, but UCLA avenged that lose in the championship game at the UC Irvine Invitational where UCLA won 5-4. The UCLA defense is their strength as they have allowed only 74 goals this year which comes out to 4.93 goals per game, and their offense is no slouch either as they average 8.4 goals per game. The second half is when UCLA revs up their game as they double up opponents 68-34 in the third and fourth quarters compared to 58-40 from the first half.
The leading player for UCLA is K.K. Clark who has scored 33 goals on the year and averages 2.2 goals per game for UCLA which is good for fourth in the MPSF. Clark has scored three or more goals seven times this year with a season-high of four goals against the Indiana Hoosiers back on Jan. 21, and only once has she been shut out this year. Clark is not the only goal scorer that UCLA has seven total players who have scored at least 10 goals this year. Arizona State can not only focus on clark, because if they do then there will be another UCLA player who will burn Arizona State.
Arizona State counters Clark's scoring with Alicia Brightwell who leads the MPSF in scoring with 44 goals so far, plus they have one of the best freshman in the nation in Anna Kertes who is third on the team in scoring with 28 goals. That 28 goals is also good enough for third in MPSF and 12th overall.
UCLA is going to be the heavy favorite in this game, and if Arizona State wants to pull off this upset they need to have their offense have a great game. UCLA's defense is one of the best in the country. Arizona State needs their top players show up and be patient and not force anything, and they need to convert on their 6-on-5 advantages.
Arizona State has the defense to go up against UCLA's offense and so far this year they have allowed only 7.44 goals per game. Goalie Ianeta Hutchinson is excellent in the cage and is currently second all-time in saves for Arizona State and she had 13 saves in the upset win over Cal last week.
If Arizona State can pull off the upset they will position themselves to earn an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament if they do not get the automatic bid from the MPSF.
Even with a No. 4 ranking Arizona State will have to play their best game to get past UCLA. My prediction is that UCLA wins 8-5.