No. 1 Alabama’s historic season ends at College Cup in loss to No. 1 UCLA


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama forward Riley Mattingly Parker (10) dribbles the ball up the field in the Crimson Tide’s 3-0 loss to the No. 1 UCLA Bruins in the College Cup semifinals on Dec. 2 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

CARY, N.C. – It was an unforgettable 2022 campaign for the Alabama soccer team, but in the lengthy chronicles of sport, not everything has a happy ending. 

The UCLA Bruins brought the Crimson Tide’s best season ever to an unhappy end in the national semifinals in Cary, North Carolina, on Friday, Dec. 2. The two No. 1 seeds battled it out, and the Bruins exploited a key to beating Alabama — holding it off the scoreboard.  

The final score was 3-0. In each of Alabama’s three defeats, it was shut out. The Crimson Tide led the country in goals scored entering the College Cup. 

Alabama finished the fall with 23 wins, 12 conference victories to go with a perfect league regular season, four wins in the NCAA Tournament and the program’s first trip to the College Cup. The program’s first three All-America selections were also announced in the hours leading up to Friday night’s match — Riley Mattingly Parker, Reyna Reyes and Felicia Knox.  

Semifinal result notwithstanding, there is a very large number of things for the Crimson Tide program to be proud of. 

“[They were] so good at breaking our pressure, which no other team has been able to do this year,” head coach Wes Hart said. “I thought [UCLA was] excellent tonight.” 

“So incredibly proud of our team,” Hart said. “I thought we battled hard, we fought, we competed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our night. I do not want this to take away from what we’ve done this year. Nobody except for these players, these coaches, nobody believed in us before the season started. … I hope we made believers out of a lot of people.” 

In the first half, the teams wasted no time getting into the action. The speedy Bruins managed to make things difficult for Alabama’s defense. In the eighth minute, UCLA had a breakaway situation snuffed out with two straight saves by McKinley Crone. In the 27th minute, Riley Mattingly Parker headed a goal in only for the officials to rule her offsides. With shades of the quarterfinal rearing their heads, Alabama (23-3-1) nevertheless had to play on. 

UCLA (21-2-1) capitalized, though, with a 30th-minute score by Reilyn Turner. Being down had been unfamiliar territory for Alabama on this run — the second half called for adjustments. Unfortunately, the Bruins scored twice less than 10 minutes into the frame, putting the Crimson Tide on the ropes in ways they had not been in previous performances. 

In the 51st minute, Quincy McMahon stretched the powder blue team’s lead to two goals. In the 54th, Madelyn Desiano followed after a few moments with the ball lingering around the net. 

The Crimson Tide has rallied before, with quick strikes while down to upend the trajectory of a match. However, the team just wasn’t used to being down by more than one. The deficit proved too much to overcome.  

“Typically, during the season, we get scored on and most of the time it’s a wake-up call,” Mattingly Parker said. “That’s just how the game goes. They scored some absolute bangers. … They were filthy. Credit where credit’s due.” 

Alabama finished the match with 11 shots and seven on goal. A near-miss from Riley Tanner started the second half offense and could have swung momentum if it were true. UCLA outperformed the Crimson Tide in shots with 20 and shots on goal with 11. In her final collegiate outing, Crone played better than the score indicated with eight saves. She will leave Alabama with the single-season shutout record and the program wins record, and the distinction of being a fan favorite. 

“This is a team I will cherish forever,” Crone said. “This is a really special team and being a part of this has genuinely made me fall in love with every single thing about the sport.” 

The program-best season has ended, but the future is bright. Alabama will now shift focus to the spring season and following up the accomplishments of this fall in 2023. 

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]