The UCLA women's soccer team will attempt to bring home the first national championship for the program when it takes on Florida State in the national final at 12:00 PST, with the game being televised on ESPNU.
The Bruins (21-1-3), who finished the season ranked #2 in the country but were shortchanged with a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament, knocked off #1-ranked Virginia in penalty kicks Friday in the national semifinal.
The week before, because they were a #2 seed, they had to beat perennial power North Carolina on the road in penalty kicks.
Florida State (23-1-3), a #1 seed and #3-ranked team in the nation, isn't going to be easy.
For one thing, the weather is forecast to be in the high 20s with a possibility of snow. Florida State has six foreign players and two of them are from Iceland, which should give them a bit of an advantage with the weather. FSU is a defense-oriented team, and was the second-best team in the ACC behind Virginia this season, with Iceland import Dagny Brynjarsdottir leading the team in goals (14), and the defense anchored by Irish import Megan Campbel, with a team-leading 13 assists.
The Bruins rely on the stingiest defense in the country, allowing just .31 goals per game this season. Abby Dahlkemper is an All-American inside back, Ally Courtnall is a lightning-fast outside back who scored the tying goal in regulation against Virginia, and goal keeper Katelyn Rowland has allowed just six goals in the regular season, and ranks second in shutouts (35) on UCLA's all-time list. The Bruins then have a very opportunistic, quick-strike offense led by two of the fastest players in the country, freshman forward Darian Jenkins, who leads the team with 13 goals this season, and sophomore forward Taylor Smith (8 goals). The middle is held down by physical Sam Mewis, and Sarah Killion, who was first in the Pac-12 in assists with 12.
UCLA is led by first-year coach Amanda Cromwell, who would be only the second woman to coach a Division 1 team the NCAA Women's Soccer championship. Cromwell has a little bit of a coaching edge in this game, coming to UCLA after 14 year at Central Florida, where she faced Florida State many times and knows their program and playing style.
The Bruins have been to the College Cup nine times, most recently in 2009, and this is their fourth appearance in the final, the last being in 2005. UCLA is considered one of the most successful women's soccer programs in the country, but has yet to win a national championship.
Looking beyond this season, the Bruins are very young, with just one senior starter, which obviously bodes well for next year and the future.
UCLA, overall, of course, has won 109 NCAA Championships, which leads the nation.