"You Gotta Be a Soldier" -- UCLA's adopted theme for 1997 was most appropriate considering the rash of injuries to key starters the Bruins had to battle at the Championships. Despite playing without co-captain and Player of the Year candidate Sasha Victorine, senior All-MPSF defender Kevin Coye and team MVP Pete Vagenas, head coach Sigi Schmid's troops prevailed and brought back the third NCAA Men's Soccer Championship in school history.
The Bruins faced top-ranked and undefeated Indiana in the semifinals in a rematch of the 1994 NCAA Semis which saw the Hoosiers pick apart redshirt freshman goalkeeper Matt Reis to win 4-1. But Reis gained redemption for that night in 1994 and was more than outstanding, stopping everything shot his way. Indiana could not find a way to figure out Reis, who made a school record-tying 11 saves on 25 shots on goal.
Over 131 scoreless minutes after kickoff, a UCLA corner kick found its way to Josh Keller, who then passed it to Ryan Lee. The freshman took a shot that was deflected by an Indiana defender. However, the deflection went right to Indiana native McKinley Tennyson, Jr., who tapped it into an empty net for the 1-0 win in sudden death overtime.
A matchup with a powerful Virginia team playing in its home state loomed next for the Bruins in the Championship game. With playmaker Vagenas unable to play, Schmid was forced to adopt a more defensive, counterattacking style that frustrated Virginia the entire game. Although the Cavaliers had their chances in the game - they had 15 shots on goal, nine of which were stopped mostly in spectacular fashion by Reis - they could not capitalize.
Two minutes later, Virginia played with fire again while trying to equalize. With most of its men up front, the Bruins again took advantage. After Tennyson fired a shot that Yetso stopped, no Cavalier defenders were there to clear, and George, the tournament's Offensive MVP, easily hit the deflection into the empty net to put the game away.