CARLSBAD — When the College Cup appeared out of reach, the No. 1 seed UCLA women’s soccer team found the “Wright” stuff to win the second national championship in program history.
UCLA sophomore Lexi Wright, a Carlsbad High School graduate, sparked a furious rally to help the Bruins overcome a two-goal deficit to beat North Carolina and capture the national championship on Dec. 5 in Raleigh, N.C.
Trailing 2-0 with 10 minutes remaining, UCLA’s Sunshine Fuentes fired a shot on goal, and Wright knocked in the rebound, giving the Bruins a shred of hope in the waning minutes of the second half.
“I think (the goal) gave us some hope and knowing that we could score,” Wright said. “Everyone was trying their hardest to get a goal at the end. The momentum was there, and you could see it.”
Reilyn Turner scored the equalizer for UCLA, heading a corner kick into the top of the net with 16 seconds left in the match. Bruins midfielder Maricarmen Reyes finished off the Tar Heels, scoring a goal with 2:34 left in the second overtime period to win UCLA’s second national title in program history.
Following the stunning comeback performance, Wright, Turner and two other Bruins were named to the All-Tournament Team.
“There were so many emotions and so happy for our seniors,” Wright said. “I think it just showed all the grit. I think it was telling of this whole year and how we persevered.
Coming into the season, Wright said her goal was to crack the starting lineup full-time. As a freshman, Wright played in 14 games, starting twice, and tallied one assist.
However, UCLA hired head coach Margueritte Aozasa, who quickly viewed Wright as both a starter and an impact player once she gained some confidence. Over time, UCLA’s style allowed Wright to play to her strengths, and her speed and technical ability on the wing became a big part of UCLA’s success, Aozasa said.
This year, Wright started all but three games, tallying eight goals and six assists.
For the postseason, Wright had a career-high two goals in the Bruins’ 4-1 win over Northern Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, had an assist against Virginia in the quarterfinals and scored the game-changing goal in the national championship game.
Lexi Wright with the RIGHT STUFF!!!
— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 6, 2022
“She’s a competitor and is all business,” Aozasa said. “When she scored, not even a smile. She says, ‘Let’s go.’ What a moment for her. Lexi is a fantastic player and has some things other players don’t have. Our biggest thing with Lexi is getting her to believe she is one of the best forwards in the country. We knew Lexi was a starter, impact player, and we’re going to rely on her this year.”
Wright’s road to the national title started when they started playing club soccer at eight years old. The multi-sport athlete growing up quickly found soccer to be her passion.
College scouts first took notice of Wright during her freshman year at Carlsbad High School. Wright finished the season with 18 goals, eight assists and a commitment to UCLA. As a sophomore, Wright set a school record with 39 goals, leading the Lancers to a San Diego Section Open Division championship.
The former North County soccer star and collegiate national champion is the product of a sports-centric family. Wright’s father, Josh, played football at Stanford, and her brother, Cole, plays football at Boise State.