In 2010, Cal Baptist moved from the NCCAA to NCAA Division II.
12 years later, the Lancers have ascended to NCAA Division I Tournament eligibility, and their first postseason test will be against their former head coach, now UCLA coach Ryan Jorden.
UCLA men’s soccer (10-6-1, 4-4-1 Pac-12) will host Cal Baptist (11-6-3, 4-3-2 WAC) on Thursday night at Wallis Annenberg Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. After finishing fourth in the Pac-12, the Bruins made the tournament for the 47th time in program history, and have the chance to open their title run at home, where they are 15-6 in first round matchups. Cal Baptist enters the contest off a first-place finish at the WAC Conference Tournament.
Jorden got his start as a head coach for Cal Baptist in the 2008 season. He would go on to lead the Lancers to two NCCAA national championships and became a two-time NCCAA national coach of the year in his five seasons with the program. He also remained at the helm while they moved from the NCCAA to NCAA Division II.
“It has been interesting to watch their transition (to Division I),” Jorden said. “I am happy for them, but that was over a decade ago so it doesn’t have too much of an impact or effect on me.”
For the second year straight, the Bruins have been granted an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, this year achieving one with an RPI ranking of 26. In the first round of the tournament last year, they took down UC Santa Barbara before losing 2-1 in a Round of 32 road matchup against Duke.
Sophomore goalkeeper Nate Crockford said the level of intensity may rise for the NCAA tournament, but it doesn’t change the in-game preparation.
“I think we go in and prepare the same way – obviously the nerves and the focus is gonna be a bit bigger because of the tournament aspect,” Crockford said. “At the end of the day, we just need to play our game and we will be able to get the result we want.”
Crockford has been a stronghold of the team’s defensive success, playing all 90 minutes and starting in all 17 games for the Bruins so far this season. Crockford is first in the Pac-12 in solo shutouts, saves and save percentages, and is third in the conference in wins.
Junior defender Tommy Silva said there have been a few key factors to their success this season, but the main one has been the team’s ability to defend.
“We have definitely been emphasizing defending and keeping clean sheets,” Silva said. “Just sticking to our style of play and keeping our identity has helped us achieve our goals and push us forward to get us where we want to be.”
The Bruins will take on the Lancers in the first round matchup this Thursday at 5 p.m. at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. With a win, UCLA would advance to the Round of 32 where it would take on the No. 6-seed Clemson Tigers (13-6-1, 3-4-1 ACC) on Sunday at 6 p.m. in South Carolina.