Heading into the 2000 season, the UCLA women's soccer team was one of a number of teams vying for respect in the world of collegiate soccer. Although the Bruins had played in three straight NCAA Tournaments, UCLA's best appearance was a quarterfinal showing back in 1997. Yet on Dec. 3, 2000 in San Jose's Spartan Stadium, UCLA found itself with a 1-0 lead over 14-time champion North Carolina in the finals of the College Cup. In what turned out to be one of the most exciting NCAA Finals in history, the Tar Heels would eventually battle back to win the match, 2-1, but not before UCLA staked its claim as one of the elite programs in the country.
Bruins Enjoy Record-Setting 2000 Season ...
As a team, UCLA enjoyed arguably its most successful season in program history last year. The 2000 Bruins set single-season team records for goals (76), assists (53), points (205) and shots taken (465). UCLA's totals for goals, assists and points were also Pac-10 single-season records. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bruins gave up a season-low 10 goals and recorded 15 shutouts, surpassing the total of 11 set in 1998. UCLA's goals against average of 0.41 was also a team record. For the second-straight season the Bruins were unbeaten at home, posting an 8-0 record and running their home unbeaten streak to 16-straight matches. UCLA has not lost a home match since a loss to BYU on Nov. 14, 1998. As the postseason arrived, so did more team accomplishments. When the Bruins defeated Clemson in the NCAA Quarterfinals, UCLA notched the program's first-ever College Cup appearance. Following a win over Portland in the NCAA Semifinal and a close match with North Carolina in the title match, the Bruins finished the season with their highest ranking ever at No. 2.
Individually Speaking . . .
Headlined by Tracey Milburn's Pac-10 Player of the Year honor and second-team All-America status, several Bruins were rewarded for successful 2000 seasons. Head coach Jillian Ellis received the highest honor awarded to a coach when she was named NSCAA National Coach of the Year at the annual NSCAA convention in Indianapolis. Forward Stephanie Rigamat, who used last year to establish herself as one of the premier attackers in the country, was one of just 11 players named to Soccer America's Collegiate MVP team. Defenders Karissa Hampton and Krista Boling joined Milburn on the All-Pac-10 First Team, while midfielder Breana Boling and goalkeeper CiCi Peterson were second-team and honorable mention All-Pac-10 selections respectively. Sarah-Gayle Swanson and Kathryn Lee were each named freshmen All-Americans after having breakthrough first seasons at the college level. NSCAA All-Far West honors were awarded to Milburn, Krista Boling and Venus James. James also joined Hampton on the College Cup All-Tournament Team.
Bruins Overpower Opposition in 2000 . . .
UCLA didn't exactly start the season the way it wanted, losing to No. 6 Clemson, 1-0 in South Carolina in just the Bruins' first match of the year. Following that loss, however, UCLA would win its next nine matches, outscoring its opponents by an impressive 35-2 margin. One week after falling to Clemson, the Bruins would notch one of their biggest victories in program history to date, handing No. 10 Florida its worst-ever home loss in the form of a 4-0 defeat in Gainesville. In fact, UCLA would not lose another match until some two months into the season, carrying a 12-1-1 record into mid-October. Despite overtime losses to No. 3 Washington and Arizona State, the Bruins dominated the rest of the regular season schedule, including impressive wins over No. 6 Cal, No. 18 Stanford and No. 19 Marquette. Heading into the postseason with a 15-3-1 record, the Bruins earned their highest NCAA seed in program history at No. 6. After receiving a first-round bye, UCLA was matched up against cross-town rival No. 22 USC in the second round. Although the two teams tied 1-1 in their only regular season meeting of the year, UCLA took a convincing 3-0 victory when it counted and moved into the third round and a matchup with No. 9 Texas A&M. In a match reminiscent of most of UCLA's contests in 2000, the Bruins took an early lead and never looked back, defeating the Aggies, 4-0 at Drake Stadium. Now, with No. 5 Clemson being the only team standing in the way of a first-ever College Cup appearance for the Bruins, UCLA had come full-circle. Once again the Bruins would have to travel to South Carolina for the matchup, but this time UCLA would leave victorious, taking a 2-1 win over the Tigers to earn a trip to San Jose for the 2000 College Cup. UCLA's semifinal opponent was Portland, a team the Bruins upset in the first round of the tournament back in 1997. Following a scoreless first half, Stephanie Rigamat scored the game-winning goal in the 77th minute of the match, giving UCLA a 1-0 victory and putting the Bruins in the NCAA Final opposite North Carolina. Showing the confidence of a team that had been there before, UCLA struck first, taking a 1-0 lead over the Tar Heels with just 36 minutes left to play in the match. After the goal however, North Carolina would come back, scoring twice in the final minutes of the match to take the victory and its 15th NCAA Championship.