UCSD Conquers SSU

    After playing the first 40 minutes tit for tat, the UCSD women’s soccer team dominated the second half to defeat visiting Sonoma State in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs 2-0.

    David Pilz/

    The first half had some great action, but was marked by missed scoring opportunities and nervous play on both sides of the ball.

    “”We played great in the first half,”” said Sonoma State head coach Luke Oberkirch. “”We missed a couple of chances or half chances, but we still played our hearts out in the first half.””

    Sonoma State had two great looks in the first 20 minutes but each time they got near the Triton goal, UCSD was able to repel their attack with some outstanding defense.

    David Pilz/

    UCSD was not without openings in the first half, as around the 30 minute mark, midfielder Kristen Conahan juked a defender out of her shoes and had a free run at the goal from 35 yards. A great play from the Cossack goalie, however, kept the score tied at 0-0.

    The Tritons just played Sonoma State on Nov. 5 and according to head coach Brian McManus, this could have affected the way the first half was played.

    “”We were a little bit tentative in the first half and that has something to do with last week when they threw everything they had at us in the last ten minutes, head-on straight on,”” McManus said. “”There was no good soccer being played and that threw us off a little bit. We started off the same we finished last week: sitting back.””

    The second half brought with it a change of pace on the Tritons’ part.

    McManus had started going to his bench at about the 30 minute mark in the first half, and when the second half started, the Tritons’ fresh legs overwhelmed the Cossack defense.

    “”This year we have used the bench more than other years, and as the game went on,”” said McManus, “”our bench was a little bit stronger than their bench.””

    Throughout the final 40 minutes, UCSD players seemed more eager and more alive than their opponents, and this was finally reflected on the scoreboard when the Tritons scored at the 51:05 mark.

    Off a corner kick from Julia Cuder, sophomore midfielder Lauren Jacobs took the ball on the bounce from teammate Megan Mendoza, and with what seemed like a nonchalant flip of her foot put it past the Cossack goalie to give the Tritons a 1-0 lead

    “”It was kind of bouncing around in the box and it just came off of Megan’s thigh and for whatever reason I was there and just took it,”” said Jacobs

    All season long the Tritons have been strong from the corner, and this goal seemed to be in the making from the very beginning of the second half, when the Tritons came out and appeared to be just half a step quicker than the Cossacks.

    “”We just had to keep pushing forward and working hard and we knew it was coming,”” Jacobs said.

    From that point on, the Tritons defense took over. For the rest of the game, SSU had only one look at a goal.

    Maggie Percell, a Cossack forward, made a nice move down the left sideline and sent a curving shot toward the goal that looked like it was headed for the back of the net. However, Triton goalie Kami Poma, ranging far to her left, made a terrific diving stop to maintain the Tritons’ 1-0 lead.

    At this point, all the wind seemed to go out of the SSU sails. After outshooting the tritons 7-4 in the first half the UCSD outshot them 12-4 in the second half including three corner kicks to their one.

    In the 79th minute, UCSD forward Christy Abiziad, on a beautiful pass from Kristin Jones, tacked another goal onto the team’s tally to make the final score a resounding 2-0 shutout.

    Defense was the name of the game for the Tritons as in three matches agasint SSU they have shut them out three times, and in this match, the Cossaks, despite a few opportunities, never seemed to be able to get anything started.

    Cuder said, “”We worked on our defense all week with Brian and when you have people like Jess who plays center full and Kara Morris who plays on the outside who come with experience — they stop everything. It makes everyone else’s job easier.””

    Its defense, combined with scoring the first goal, really put UCSD over the top.

    “”We got together before the second half and said, ‘we can do this, we are the best team out here,'”” Cuder said. “”If we get one goal, our defense shuts out, and as soon as we score it is such a lift.””

    The Tritons have been the best team in their conference all year long and this game proved it as UCSD came out and beat SSU for the third time this season, all three by shutouts.

    Sonoma’s head coach agreed.

    “”They stepped up their level in the second half,”” Oberkirch said. “”They are just a good team and are tough to beat. The better team won today, they are the best team in our region, and they deserved to win.””

    This game gives the Tritons some momentum heading into the second round of the playoffs.

    “”We have 10 first-year players and by now this should be giving them confidence,”” McManus said. “”We have been in three overtime games and knock on wood, won each of them. The longer we are in games, the more chance we have to win, and we know that the longer we are in games the momentum continues to go our way.””

    This win improves the Tritons record to 18-2 overall and they maintain their 12-2 league record.

    UCSD’s next game will be on either Nov. 18 or Nov. 19 against Central Oklahoma.

    There is a 90 percent chance the game will be played here at home on Sunday at 1 o’clock. If it is, let’s see some UCSD support for our stellar women’s soccer team.

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