After last week’s 1-1 tie against Chico State, the No. 16 UCSD women’s soccer team edged Cal State Stanislaus, 1-0, on a goal by freshman midfielder Caitlin Ryan. The Oct. 17 win at RIMAC Field kept the Tritons at the top of the California Collegiate Athletic Association rankings.
The team is in the final stretch of its regular season, and with second-place Cal State Dominguez Hills keeping it close, UCSD’s win kept it in first place in the South division. The win improves the Tritons’ record to 12-1-1 while dropping the Warriors to 8-5-3.
“That was a big win; you only play [Chico State and Cal State Stanislaus] once,” UCSD head coach Brian McManus said. “We dropped two points [in tying Chico State] and took three points [in the win]. In the end, the result was right. The biggest disappointment is losing the two points [in the tie]. That could cost us in the long run. [But] it was a great weekend, and the kids had good attitudes.”
Although the Tritons scored only once, they dominated the Warriors for most of the game, producing several scoring opportunities. And despite missing injured junior defender Heather Szafraniec in the starting lineup, UCSD played smart defensively, preventing Cal State Stanislaus from creating any solid scoring chances.
The Tritons came out aggressive in the first half, spending much of their time in the Warriors’ defensive zone. Their first scoring chance came when freshman forward Rachel Lindenfeld won a corner battle to cut in toward the net, enabling her to center a pass to freshman midfielder Chelsey Campbell. Campbell took a shot that was blocked by Warrior junior goalie Breanna Vaughan, who ended up bailing out her teammates with key saves to keep the match close.
The Tritons had seven corner kicks in the first half, compared to only one for the Warriors. Senior goalie Jamie Lautenschleger shut down any chance for a Warrior goal when she came out and caught the corner kick with less than six minutes remaining.
UCSD’s aggressive play finally paid off in the second half when the Tritons pulled ahead in the 53rd minute. It started out with a key defensive play by freshman Nicole Pepper, who stole the ball at about midfield and pushed it ahead to sophomore forward Kelly Cochran. Cochran dribbled the ball down the line, faking out her opponent, cut into the box and centered a pass to an onrushing freshman midfielder Ali Lai. Lai, who was hounded by a Warrior, overran the ball a bit but was able to deflect it behind her to Ryan, who then flicked the ball past Vaughan’s right side from eight yards out.
The game-winning goal was Ryan’s third goal of the season, with Cochran and Lai each picking up an assist on the play.
UCSD did not let up offensively and forced Vaughan to make three more saves in the second half. The Tritons outshot the Warriors, 8-2, in the half and frustrated their defense. In the 78th minute, Cal State Stanislaus senior defender Grace Cochrun was penalized with a red card for forcibly knocking down sophomore midfielder Megan Dickey.
The Tritons took advantage of the short-handed Warriors by creating a couple more scoring chances in the closing minutes. Senior midfielder Jaclyn Shaffer sent in a corner kick that sophomore midfielder Heather Sugg headed toward the net, but Vaughan jumped to tip the ball over the crossbar. Vaughan recorded five saves in the match, while Lautenschleger had one save in her eighth shutout of the season.
McManus hopes to get back his injured starters, sophomore midfielder Alise Malley and Szafraniec in time for the upcoming matches.
“Hopefully they’ll both be right for [the next game], because obviously we’ve got two massive games coming up,” McManus said. “We need at least a win or tie in those two games. Dominguez is going to be a tough game up there [on their home field].”
UCSD has three games left in the season, all of which will be critical for the postseason. UCSD was scheduled to host Cal Poly Pomona at home on Oct. 20, but the match was postponed due to rain. The date and time of the postponed match was not determined at press time.
On Oct. 23, the Tritons will take the field in a pivotal South Division match against Cal State Dominguez Hills (11-4-1), which trails UCSD in the CCAA standings by three points. The match against the Toros will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Carson, Calif. The Tritons’ next home match is on Oct. 27 against Cal State San Bernardino.
Although the Tritons are a young team, they have stepped up to the challenge and hold first place overall in their conference. They expect to finish strong and said they know the upcoming games are crucial.
“We’ve got four big games coming up, and they’re [against] really hard teams like San Bernardino and Dominguez Hills, so we can’t overlook any of these teams,” Lai said. “We have to really take it one at a time.”