TideIllustrated – Alabama soccer’s season ends with 3-0 loss to UCLA in College Cup

Three minutes of frustration in the first half and two minutes of misery in the second were enough to derail Alabama’s soccer’s historic run Friday night as the Crimson Tide saw its season end with a 3-0 loss to UCLA in the College Cup semifinals in Cary, N.C.

A forgettable night for Alabama (23-3-1) started with a near-magical moment as Riley Mattingly Parker dove to head in a ball from Felicia Knox in the 27th minute. However, the goal was disallowed as Parker was ruled offside.

“Getting a goal called back is no fun,” Mattingly Parker said. “What a good ball from Felicia. I just laid out for it, and I was like ‘Sweet!’ I’m getting ready to celebrate, and I looked up and I saw the linesman raise his flag. Your heart sinks.”

Three minutes later, UCLA (21-2-1) opened the scoring as Bruins’ defender Quincy McMahon beat Alabama right back Gessica Skora to the end line before pulling back a pass across goal to unmarked forward Reilyn Turner for an easy tap-in.

UCLA scored two goals in quick succession in the second half to bury Alabama for good. McMahon increased the Bruins’ advantage to 2-0 with a deflected shot from the top of the box in the 52nd minute. Two minutes later UCLA completed the blowout as left back Madelyn Desiano scored a solo goal, shooting from the top of the box to beat Alabama goalkeeper McKinley Crone to the upper-right corner.

“They scored some absolute bangers,” Mattingly Parker said. “Props to them. … I mean they were filthy.”

Alabama entered Friday ranked second nationally averaging 2.92 goals per game and had found the back of the net a combined 17 times in its four NCAA Tournament wins. However, the Crimson Tide wasn’t able to take maintain its typical possession against the Bruins suffering just its third shutout of the season while matching its season-low with 11 shots.

Crone stood tall in net, tallying eight saves while preventing the game from getting out of hand. She pulled off back-to-back saves to keep the game scoreless in the ninth minute. Three minutes into the second half, she stopped Turner in a one-on-one situation to keep the score at 1-0.

“Mack [Crone] saved some amazing saves tonight,” Alabama left back Reyna Reyes said. “She kept us from getting ripped, honestly. Credit to UCLA, seriously. They know how to peak off that back shoulder and overload the back line. They’ve got some great players that can just provide through balls. But I thought that our defense did the best that they could.”

Despite the loss, Alabama put together its best season in school history, claiming its first SEC regular-season title while making its deepest run in the NCAA Tournament. Before this season, the furthest Alabama had made it in the NCAA Tournament was last year’s second-round exit.

“Unfortunately it was our night, but I do not want this to take away from what we’ve done this year,” Alabama head coach Wes Hart said. “What an incredible season. Nobody, nobody, nobody, except for these players, the other 27 players in the locker room and the coaches, nobody believed in us before the season started. We weren’t picked in any preseason polls. Nobody gave us any love, any attention.

“I hope we made believers out of a lot of people. The amount of records that we broke this season. … We smashed almost every record we had. I know this one stings, and I hope in time we are able to forget about this game and appreciate everything that we’ve done.”

UCLA will face North Carolina in the national championship game on Monday at 5 p.m. CT. North Carolina advanced by beating Florida State 3-2 in Friday’s other semifinal.

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