UCLA women's soccer begins postseason defense of its national title vs. UC Irvine

CARY, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 05: Head coach Margueritte Aozasa.
UCLA women's soccer coach Margueritte Aozasa is doused in ice water after the Bruins' comeback victory over North Carolina for the 2022 NCAA title. (Eakin Howard / Getty Images)

UCLA, the defending national champion, will open the NCAA women’s soccer tournament Friday against UC Irvine at home. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. PST. The meeting with Irvine, the Big West conference winner, will be the second of the year between the two schools. UCLA won the first 4-0 in August.

The tournament invite is the Bruins’ eighth straight and 27th overall. UCLA has a 74-20-7 NCAA record and has advanced to the Round of 16 or beyond in nine of the last 10 seasons, making final four appearances in 2013, 2017, 2019 and 2022 and winning the national title 2013 and 2022.

By virtue of its No. 1 seed, UCLA (16-1-1), the Pac-12 champion and the No. 2 team in the country, could play at home through the quarterfinals. Irvine (8-7-6), which has won the last three Big West titles, will be appearing in the NCAA tournament for the fifth time.

Read more: Expectations are soaring for No. 4 UCLA. How will the Bruins respond?

USC and Pepperdine also earned berths in the 64-team tournament. The No. 22 Trojans (10-4-3), an eighth seed, will host Grand Canyon (14-4-4) in their first match while unseeded Pepperdine (9-4-5) will visit second-seeded Stanford (15-0-4), the No. 3 in the United Soccer Coaches rankings. Those two matches will also be played Friday.

Top-ranked Florida State (16-0-1) will face Morehead State (9-5-5) in its tournament opener. The tournament semifinals, known as the College Cup, will be played next month in Cary, N.C.

UCLA won its second national team last season, beating North Carolina in extra time to make Margueritte Aozasa the only first-year head coach and only woman of color ever to win the NCAA Division I women’s soccer championship.

In the Division III tournament, Pomona-Pitzer (15-0-3) will open with Pacific Lutheran (15-4-1) while Cal Lutheran (15-1-4) will face Carleton (16-2-2). Those games are scheduled for Saturday.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.