Relentless Offense Nets Record-Breaking Victory

    Senior David Bakal registered an assist in his final home game, a 5-0 win over Seattle Pacific on Oct. 25. Head coach John Pascale said it was the team’s most complete performance of the season. (Karen Ling/Guardian File)

    MEN’S SOCCER — For any collegiate athletic team, Senior Day is a special event — a chance for the home faithful to show their support for those players who have dedicated a college career’s worth of effort to representing their university.

    For the UCSD men’s soccer team, Senior Day transformed from a ceremony honoring their veterans to a showcase of sudden virtuosity as they routed Seattle Pacific University 5-0 at Triton Soccer Field on Oct. 25.

    The Tritons racked up two goals from senior forward Tony Fernandez and one apiece from senior forward Tom Caplan, sophomore defender Aaron McDowell and junior defender Kyle Parton as they continued their late surge toward the postseason. The UCSD squad has relied heavily on its seniors all season, and this match proved no different, with older members of the bunch getting on the board early on. Fernandez opened the scoring streak for the Tritons, driving a pass by Caplan home for a 1-0 starting advantage. The team struck again only four minutes later, as junior midfielder Tony Choi put a beautiful corner kick into the box that found McDowell with enough space to fire a shot that doubled the lead and marked the fourth season goal for the aggressive defender.

    The squad could have been content to sit on their 2-0 halftime lead, but the Tritons seemed determined to put on a display for their hometown crowd in the last home game of the season. Fernandez tallied his second score of the match in the 56th minute as he snuck a shot past Seattle Pacific goalkeeper Kaleb Kuehn, taking a nice pass from sophomore midfielder David Bakal for a team-leading fifth goal of the season.

    Team captain Caplan made his own mark on the match in the 68th minute, knocking home a header off a perfect corner kick from Choi. The goal was the third of the season for Caplan. The final tally of the match arrived in the 74th minute, with an own goal by Falcon defender Jono Henness, who put a header past his own keeper. Parton was credited with the score for the Tritons.

    Senior goalkeeper Peter Akman made three saves through 80 minutes, posting his eighth shutout of the season before giving way to freshman Ryan McDowell, who made his debut for the Tritons.

    The win was the third in four matches for the Tritons and pushed their overall record to 9-5-2. The team currently owns a California Collegiate Athletic Association record of 5-5-2 and remains in third place in the South Division with 17 points. The Tritons will finish the season with a home record of 6-2-2.

    Head coach John Pascale credited his team’s superior conditioning as a key factor in the beating the Tritons handed the Falcons.

    “We have really pushed the guys hard from a fitness standpoint and it really paid off,” Pascale said. “We just played at a faster speed and had a lot of energy in our legs.”

    He also pointed to the high level of competition that teams have to face day in and day out in the CCAA as a reason for the easy non-conference win.

    “I think we have by far the toughest conference in the country in Division II,” Pascale said. “We have been playing a lot of tough teams and it has certainly prepared us.”

    As one of five seniors honored before the game, Akman was happy to get the win but admitted it was tough to finish his home career.

    “It has been such a great season, it is tough for all of us to say goodbye,” Akman said. “Our staff has been unbelievable; the young guys are lucky to get a chance to continue to work with them.”

    Pascale, in his first year as head coach, was thankful for the level of leadership his seniors have provided all season.

    “Anytime you can send the seniors out on a good note is just a great thing,” he said. “They have seen this program through some tough times and are a big reason we are doing so well.”

    While the Tritons may have played their last regular-season game at home, they still have a chance to play at Triton Soccer Field for the CCAA championships. To do so, they would need to win their final two matches on the road at Cal State San Bernardino on Oct. 31 and Cal Poly Pomona on Nov. 2 and receive some help in the standings. Even if the CCAA tournament falls out of their reach the team also has an outside shot of making the NCAA Division-II tournament Dec. 4-7 at the University of Tampa in Florida.

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