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NCAA WOMEN'S SOCCER

UCLA keeps focus for Duke

November 29, 2008|Mark Medina

Before UCLA women's soccer Coach Jillian Ellis walked onto the practice field Friday, she saw her players huddled together.

They talked as a group about their upcoming opponent, Duke, in an NCAA quarterfinal at Drake Stadium tonight at 7. That meeting and the practice afterward convinced Ellis that her team carried the same focus from its 1-0 victory last week over USC in the third round of the tournament.

In that game, Ellis thought the Bruins (21-0-2) played "as determined and as focused as I've seen our team" all season.

"Never before in the entire season had our 11 players performed at one time," Ellis said. "It all came together."

UCLA has a school-record 19 shutouts this season, led by a defense that Ellis jokes has "plexiglass nailed in front of the goal."

UCLA is ranked 17th nationally in scoring (2.35 goals a game), led by junior forward Kristina Larson (11goals) and junior forward Lauren Cheney (10 goals).

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils (15-5-3) have finished with winning seasons in nine of the last 10 years but never have advanced past the NCAA quarterfinals.

Knowing the Bruins are one win away from a sixth straight College Cup semifinal spot, Ellis equated the quarterfinal game to a job interview.

"The first time, you're extremely nervous," Ellis said. "But then later on, you start to relax and show your personality. We've been here before and we'll be able to draw on that experience."

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