Late Goal Hands Tritons First Loss of the Season

The fourth best team in the nation is not supposed to lose. A team
that has scored 25 goals on the season is not supposed to get shutout. A team
known for immaculate defense is not supposed to allow a game-winning goal with
43 seconds left to play. But if all those supposed impossibilities do happen,
that same team isn’t supposed to dwell on crushing defeats, let it spoil their
composure and keep them from getting back into a position to chase down a

Senior midfielder Lauren Seager couldn’t put her header past Cal State Dominguez Hills’ freshman goalkeeper Alyssa Congdon, who made seven saves in the Toros’ victory over UCSD. (Sanh Luong/Guardian)

The UCSD women’s soccer team went head-to-head on Oct. 10 with No.
25 Cal State Dominguez Hills, the only other nationally ranked team in the
California Collegiate Athletic Association. After battling hard for 89 minutes,
the Toros found the back of the net in the 90th minute, dealing the Tritons
their first loss of the season and dropping them to second place in South
Conference standings for the first time this season.

The losing game versus Cal State Dominguez Hills was the type of
failure that could have easily derailed a less mature team. After a road trip
to Northern California, the Tritons were looking forward to a typical warm San
Diego night, but instead were met with an unusual chill that left players and
fans alike bundled in sweatshirts. After not playing in front of a home crowd
for over two weeks, the Tritons welcomed the thought of a huge throng of
screaming fans that would propel them to victory. Instead, the Triton faithful,
although large in number, were often out-cheered in the stands by Cal State
Dominguez Hills’ men’s soccer team, who had earlier in the night won its game

Despite these innocuous intangibles, the Tritons battled to the
teeth for the whole game. With about 25 minutes left to play, the already
electric game kicked into an entirely new level of intensity, with each team
mounting impressive attacks that ended with balls bouncing off the posts and
keepers making one diving save after another. The Toros had already proved to
be a formidable foe, having previously given the Tritons their only blemish on
their record at the time, when the two teams played to a 0-0 tie earlier this
season. All signs were pointing to another overtime game when, in the final
minute, Cal State Dominguez Hills’ Renee Haynes netted the game-winning goal
and stunned all in attendance.

For the Tritons, allowing a late goal on their home field was a
huge disappointment.

Senior defender Stacy Johnson and the Tritons’ back line have allowed only five goals all year and hope to maintain that kind of defense in its last four regular season matches at home. (Sanh Luong/Guardian)

“It was a really hard loss,” sophomore midfielder Alexia Zatarain
said. “Everybody was angry, not sad and down, but just angry. It did give us a
feeling of determination though, for Friday’s game and for the rest of the
season. A loss like that makes you want to never let something like that happen

Head coach Brian McManus said the Tritons wrote their own ending.

“It was just one of those games that could have gone either way,”
McManus said. “We had chances and we didn’t put those chances away; we were very naive at the end. Instead
of putting the ball out of danger, we decided to play with it. You don’t do
that with a minute and a half to play.”

UCSD showed its experience and poise by
avenging Wednesday’s devastating loss with a 1-0 win over Cal State Los Angeles
on Oct. 12. For a team with aspirations of a national championship, no win was
more important than Friday’s rebounding victory in Los Angeles. Good teams
lose; it’s a part of the game. What defines great teams, however, is their
reaction to failure.

The resilient Triton squad was able to prove
that it does deserve national praise
by excelling in its first challenge after a heart-breaking loss. Senior
midfielder Ali Lai, who scored the game’s lone goal, represented her whole
team’s sentiment when she stressed the importance of the 1-0 win at Los

“Coming off of the loss to Dominguez it was really important to
bounce back,” Lai said. “Losing two in a row would have been devastating.

Lai said she wanted to avoid a similar path
that the Tritons followed in 2004 when
they didn’t make the postseason.

“As far as playoffs go, [beating CSULA] was
even more important,” she said. “My freshman year we lost two of the last five
games and didn’t make the playoffs.”

Starting Oct. 19 against
Chico State, the Tritons will play all four remaining regular season games at
home –— to which the team is unaccustomed.

“We have been on the road a lot this year so
it is just a big relief,” Lai said. “Hopefully we can keep drawing big crowds
and get the support we need to win.”