Friends become rivals on Sunday as UCLA Bruins meet again
The NWSL Championship Game on Sunday will showcase some of the best players the league has to offer, with friends and rivals coming up against each other for the third time this season. Among the two squads looking to claim their club’s first NWSL Championship are six of the 2013 UCLA Bruins team that helped the school its first National Championship with a 1-0 overtime win against Florida State.
Western New York’s Abby Dahlkemper, Sam Mewis, Taylor Smith and Katelyn Rowland, will face off against the Spirit’s Caprice Dydasco and Megan Oyster, all of whom were part of the UCLA team that finished that season on a 21 game unbeaten streak. Now, those players will put friendships aside for at least 90 minutes on Sunday when they face off at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
Speaking at Thursday’s NWSL Media Day, both sets of players were made available to give their views ahead of Sunday’s encounter, and when some of the former Bruins were questioned about coming up against former teammates, all responded with a big smile.
Speaking about the matchup off the back off her U.S national call-up, Flash defender Abby Dahlkemper said she hadn’t spoken to her former colleagues. “We have not spoken very much, and I think that’s the competitiveness coming out,” she said. “It is going to be business on the field, but it will be nice to see them afterwards when this is done.”
Teammate Sam Mewis, who herself was called up to the U.S squad for the friendlies against Switzerland, described it as ‘special’ that the six players would be on the squad lists for Sunday’s game, highlighting the quality that came out of that Bruins side.
“It’s really special and says a lot about UCLA and the players they were able to produce,” Mewis said. “That some of us are having success at this level is super exciting and I am really happy that some of my friends and old teammates are succeeding. “
However, when asked whether there was any banter being thrown around, neither Mewis nor forward Taylor Smith, would be drawn on conversations that had taken place.
“This is so different to UCLA and I feel the same sense of love for this team that I do for the Bruins, so we’ll talk after the game, not before,” said Mewis.
Smith added: “I think we’re both really proud of each other and proud UCLA produced great players and great people, but we’re very focused on what we’re doing, which adds a bit off umph.”
There is no question that both defenses will need to be on top of their game with the amount of pace and attacking talent in both sides, with the Spirit’s Dydasco and Oyster needing to come up with a plan to stop the league’s MVP and Golden Boot winner, Lynn Williams.
Former Bruin Oyster said her team would need to be on top of their game to stifle the attacking threat of the Flash. “We know that Lynn is extremely fast, so a key for us will be ensuring we have cover and reading the situation,” she said. “We’re going to stick to what we know and believe in ourselves. We can’t focus too much on what they do, we just need to do our job and know our roles.”
Much like the players from the Flash, Oyster was equally as enthusiastic about coming up against her former UCLA teammates, but said friendship had ended for this week.
“That just adds to the excitement of Sunday,” Oyster said. “We have talked, and been in so many experiences together over the years, so to add another experience we dreamed abut together, making it to a championship together, is something super special.
“I’m so proud of those girls because I’ve seen how hard they have worked, I couldn’t be happier for them. But friendship is over for the week.”
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