Just like that, Alabama’s dream trip was over.
A program a year removed from its first NCAA tournament victory, the Crimson Tide’s season ended without a title. UCLA finished the streak with a 3-0 win over Alabama in the NCAA tournament.
The season ended with a 23-3-1 record for an Alabama team that didn’t get the offense that fueled this break.
This was a Crimson Tide team that averaged 20.3 shots (No. 4 nationally) and 2.92 goals (No. 2) a game but couldn’t manage that level of production against the Bruins. UCLA outshot the Tide, 20-11 including 11-7 in shots on goal.
The shutout was the first time this season an Alabama team trailed by more than two goals at any point in the season.
“We don’t want this game to define us,” Alabama coach Wes Hart said. “I was proud of the effort we made. We kept fighting and we kept fighting and competing.”
The Tide had its chances. It appeared to break a scoreless tie in the first inning on Riley Mattingly Parker’s ground ball. The celebration was short as the offside was called.
He said later: “It was fun. Obviously, getting that goal back isn’t fun. What a beautiful ball by Felicia (Knox) and I just put it in and I was like ‘sweeeeeet.’ I was getting ready to celebrate and I looked up and saw the guard raising his flag.”
Then after half time, two shots missed the post by inches.
UCLA, meanwhile, broke the tie in the 29th minute with a goal by Reilyn Turner. They led 1-0 at half-time before a two-minute strike effectively ended the game. Goals from Quincy McMahon and Madelyn Desiano in the 51st and 53rd minutes turned the game around.
“They put in some absolute bangers,” Parker said. “Promises to them. Two of them were unassisted. I mean, they were dirty. Well, top 90. What are you talking about?
Hart said he thinks the Tide will be able to pressure UCLA a little bit and make a few more turnovers.
“But let’s talk about justice,” he said. It’s a very good team.
After leading a program that had never had more than an NCAA cup of coffee until now, Hart never lost sight of the bigger picture.
He said: “No one, apart from these players and 27 others in the dressing room, no one believed in us before this season started. We were not selected in the pre-season polls. “Nobody gave us any love, any attention. I hope we made believers in a lot of people with the records we broke this season.”
Michael Casagrande is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @KaCasagrande or to continue Facebook.