Clutch Goal Vaults UCSD To Third Round

SPORTS-wsocc-20091115152101-0-EJWOMEN’S SOCCER — The UCSD women’s soccer team defeated Chico State in a dramatic 2-1 win on Nov. 14, emerging victorious from the second round of the NCAA Division-II tournament. The victory advanced the Tritons to the third round, setting them up for a Nov. 20 match against Cal State Dominguez Hills after the Toros defeated Cal State LA 2-1 on Nov. 15 to secure a third-round birth.

As the No. 2 seed in the West Regional, UCSD earned a first-round bye and hosted the Chico State Wildcats.

Chico State, fresh off a penalty-kick shootout victory against defending national champion Seattle Pacific University on Nov. 12, stepped into the Triton Soccer Stadium looking to walk out with another win. Though the Wildcats entered the game riding a huge wave of momentum, UCSD — having lost each of its past three matches — walked onto the pitch with a do-or-die mentality.

“Sometimes you would like to get away on the road and just concentrate on the game,” head coach Brian McManus said. “Playing at home with all the distractions could have affected a young team like this. Yet they prepared properly this week. The practices have been great, and the intensity has been great.”

It was a tough contest from the first to the final whistle — each team played harder and got more physical as the game progressed. Despite a fast start by the Tritons, the Wildcats struck first, taking a 1-0 lead on a corner kick in the 23rd minute.

The Tritons responded quickly to tie the game. After receiving a pass from the right by freshman midfielder Jessica Wi in the 25th minute, sophomore forward Sarah McTigue sent a high shot past the Wildcat keeper to the upper left of the net, tying the match at 1-1. It was Wi’s seventh assist and McTigue’s seventh goal of the season.

“That was big,” McManus said. “If it went to halftime 0-1, that would have given them such a lift. But coming back and getting a goal that quick, I think that brought their heads down a bit.”

After the UCSD equalizer, the match remained at a 1-1 stalemate through halftime. As overtime inched closer, the two teams stepped up their already physical play in a final push to scratch out the winning goal.

In the 86th minute, the Tritons gave their home fans more than enough to cheer about. With just minutes left on the clock, UCSD received its third corner kick of the night.

After freshman defender Hayley Johnson failed to find net off the set piece, McTigue collected the loose ball and fired a hard shot to the right of the keeper, giving her team a one-goal lead that would hold for the remainder of the match.

Johnson picked up her fourth assist of the season on the game-winning play, while McTigue scored her eighth goal of the season and saw her first career multi-goal game.

UCSD celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal off the foot of sophomore forward Sarah Mctigue (above) in the 86th minute (Erik Jepsen/Guardian).
UCSD celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal off the foot of sophomore forward Sarah Mctigue (above) in the 86th minute (Erik Jepsen/Guardian).

McManus — while grateful for McTigue’s strong effort — was not surprised by her performance.

“She’s been like that all year,” McManus said. “She’s only a sophomore, but she’s playing like a senior. She’s leading the team up front by example.”

UCSD finished with a 17-10 shot advantage, though the Wildcats notched five shots on goal to the Tritons’ two. Chico State also had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks, though they proved fruitless in the face of the Triton win.

“We were really pumped up for the game,” McTigue said. “We came at them hard from the beginning, and we kept the pressure on them the whole time and ran them over. “

According to McManus, despite compiling a 15-5-1 record on the 2009 season, the team’s youth and inexperience has been its most consistent obstacle to playoff success. With Saturday’s thrilling win, the team put many of those worries to rest.

“In playoffs, the veteran teams — the experienced teams — are the ones that step up and win it,” McManus said. “We definitely got off to a good start, so it’s a little confidence booster for us to realize that our youth doesn’t matter anymore. We were young at the beginning of the season, but when you play 20-odd games together, they’re not a young team anymore. They’ve gotten to know each other, their habits, their runs and what certain people do.”

Readers can contact John Beck at [email protected].