Top-ranked Tritons suffer second defeat of 2004

    One might deduct that Cal State Dominguez Hills’ quest for revenge and the top-ranked Tritons’ sluggish start got the better of the UCSD women’s soccer team (12-2-1), which posted its second loss of the season in a 1-0 shutout on Oct. 23 at Toro Soccer Stadium in Carson, Calif. The Toros (11-4-2), who were ranked second overall in the California Collegiate Athletic Association behind the Tritons, lost at UCSD in September, 1-0.

    “I think [we] were really lacsadaisical because of the rain, and we had too many indoor practices,” sophomore forward Kathy Sepulveda said. “So I don’t think we were quite in the right mindset to play hard in the beginning of the game, because we started really slow.”

    The Tritons’ inability to keep up with the Toros in the opening half ended up costing them the game when Cal State Dominguez Hills scored in the 17th minute. Sophomore midfielder Candace Hearn sent the ball in the upper right of the net off of a pass from junior forward Rachele McDonald to put the Toros ahead, 1-0.

    “We knew this was a huge game and that we needed to come out and play our best,” Hearn said. “We needed to beat them to be number one and take control of the standings.”

    Before the game, Cal State Dominguez Hills trailed UCSD by three points in the CCAA standings, and its win ties both squads for first-place. Both teams are now 7-0-1 in the CCAA.

    UCSD found itself scrambling to play defense in the first half, with Cal State Dominguez Hills applying pressure on the Triton backfield, keeping senior goalie Jamie Lautenschleger on her toes. She came up with four big saves to keep UCSD in the game, including a blocked shot by Toro junior defender Jessica Gatica, who got a shot off amidst a scramble in the box. Meanwhile, UCSD head coach Brian McManus jumbled his lineup on the field to try to find the right combination, yielding in a couple of scoring opportunities. With less than 10 seconds remaining, two Toros collided about 15 yards in front of their goal and Sepulveda capitalized, taking the loose ball and dribbling toward the net. With a Toro defender pressuring from the back, Sepulveda got a shot off that would have scored, except it narrowly missed the net and went wide to the left instead.

    After a halftime pep talk by McManus, the Tritons turned things around and played aggressively from the first whistle of the second half.

    “We got ripped on at halftime, so we were able to pull our heads out and play a little bit better,” Sepulveda said.

    UCSD had some very close chances, but Cal State Dominguez Hills’ junior goalie Mallory Dominguez also came up with big saves to maintain her shutout. The Toros fouled the Tritons 11 times, giving them some room to control play. Most of the free kicks for UCSD came from the right side facing the net. Senior midfielder Jaclyn Shaffer tried several times to direct her left-foot shot toward the rear post, hoping the Tritons would find the back door, but the Toro defense remained stable and kept UCSD scoreless. In the end, Hearn’s goal proved to be enough to defeat UCSD.

    Besides the slow start, inexperience was also a key factor in the match, according to McManus.

    “We have a bunch of young, first-year players who still think it’s just like club [soccer], and they’re having a bit of fun,” he said. “And it’s not; [the Toros were] celebrating after the game like they just won a championship. Everyone wants to beat UCSD women’s soccer. And in the second half, I thought [UCSD] did great. You’ve got to come in and play at the beginning of the game, not just one half.”

    Although the Tritons lost, they can still remain in first place provided they win their final three matches, according to McManus.

    “We’ll see if they can pick it up and come back,” he said.

    Sepulveda is confident the Tritons will bounce back from their loss and play better in the critical three games.

    “The coaches have to keep reminding us how important each game is because we have so many new people,” she said. “We need to come out playing like we did in the second half and we need to come out a lot stronger.”

    UCSD is back in action against Cal Poly Pomona on Oct. 25 at RIMAC Arena to make up the Oct. 20 match that was postponed due of rain.

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