UCLA women improved to 4-1 in league season, stepping it up in the second half to beat UC Santa Barbara 31-7. It was a nice improvement over the team's first win against UCSB, in which the Los Angeles team won by only six points. All American flyhalf Tia Blythe was the undispute MVP of the game, running in a hat trick and slotting three conversions to account for 21 of the Bruins' 31 points.
UCLA began strongly, converting an overload in the backs into a Jordan Klein try beneath posts, a score that Blythe converted. Santa Barbara recovered from its shaky beginnings and evened up the score when a UCLA pass was intercepted in its own half and run in for a try. The Bruins took a 12-7 lead into the half when captain Cassie Tong gathered a kick ahead in UCSB's 22 meter. She was dragged down at the try line where she offloaded to Sundae Holmes in support and whom crashed over the line for the score.
"I needed UCLA to clean up the rucks, make better tackles and really step up the tempo," UCLA coach John Wooler reflected on his halftime speech. "It was becoming a sloppy game, which would benefit Santa Barbara, who were gaining confidence. The request was to come out and hit hard quickly. The tackling improved and UCLA kept putting the ball down the field attacking space and looking for UCSB to make mistakes."
Blythe led by example and broke through the line, beating several players en route to a 20-meter try, which she converted (19-5). Scrumhalf Lucy win was distributing the ball well, but some slow ball movement prevented additional scores. Blythe was still able to make some good yardage and slashed her way through the line for another try, 24-5.
UCLA did well to maintain most of the possession in the second half, thanks in part to the hard work of prop Kat Telles, lock Rebecca Pan and the hard tackling of Tong. With that much ball in hand, Blythe was able to complete her hat trick from a midfield breakaway, again beating four players down the belly of the field for the try, which she converted, 31-7.
After next weekend's Champagne Classic in San Diego, UCLA has one more game against Arizona State, a team the Bruins beat 43-5 in their first meeting this season.