Triton Comeback Denied in West Regional Shootout Loss

Picture 1WOMEN’S SOCCER — The UCSD women’s soccer team saw quarterfinal dreams crushed at the 2009 NCAA Division-II tournament after a crushing defeat to Cal State Dominguez Hills on Nov. 20. The game was ultimately lost in a tie-breaking penalty-kick shootout.

The two teams played to a 2-2 tie before the Toros edged the Tritons 3-1 in penalty kicks. The heartbreaking shootout ended the Tritons’ spectacular season with a record of 15-5-2.

The Tritons stepped onto their home turf Friday night with one option in mind: victory. Playing before 1,000 screaming fans, the Tritons had the opportunity to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals while eliminating archrival Dominguez Hills in the process. The Toros had edged the Tritons from the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship on Nov. 6 and dealt the Tritons another loss on Nov. 1 in their final regular-season game. Emotions ran high on both sides, as the fate of an entire season was on the line. UCSD looked to strike first. Coming into the match, the Tritons were 13-1 in games where they scored first, and only 2-4-1 when conceding the first goal. However, the Toro defenders kept the Triton offense at bay, and the two squads entered halftime with the score tied 0-0.

Just three minutes into the start of the second period, Dominguez Hills caught the Tritons offguard and took a 1-0 lead off of a Toro free kick. The quick score destabilized the Tritons, and — less than two minutes later — UCSD surrendered an own goal on a Toro throw-in and a bobble by sophomore goalkeeper Kristin Armstrong. In less than five minutes, the Tritons found themselves down a daunting 2-0, with a staunch Dominguez Hills smelling victory.

“I thought there was four minutes of madness to start the second half,” head coach Brian McManus said. “Our goalkeeper made one slip that she’d never make, and the ball bounced in.”

Down 2-0 with 40 minutes left to play, the Tritons realized just how close their season was to ending, and woke up with a start. UCSD went into attack mode, and the offense quickly found its rhythm. In the 58th minute, freshman midfielder Danielle Dixon sent a cross from the left to junior defender and Triton captain Lisa Bradley. Bradley then sent a header over the Toro keeper, trimming the Toro lead to 2-1. The goal gave Dixon her first assist of the season and Bradley her first career postseason goal.

“We really dug deep,” sophomore forward Sarah McTigue said, “It really helped when Lisa got that goal in. It switched the momentum around for us.”

UCSD kept up the attack and tied the match at 2-2 in the 78th minute. The equalizer came when sophomore midfielder Anne Wethe sent a low pass to McTigue, who worked around two defenders and lifted a shot over the Toro keeper from 12 yards out. The pass went to Wethe — the Tritons’ leader in assists, with eight this season — and connected with McTigue, who led the Tritons with nine goals — for the critical shot.

“We were just pounding them,” McTigue said. “It was just a matter of time, and we ended up getting one.”

After the teams played out the remainder of regulation scoreless, the match entered a 10-minute overtime period. Both defenses held firm, leading to a second overtime period. After another scoreless 10 minutes, the game ended in a 2-2 draw, and the two teams prepared for penalty kicks.

The Toros shot first, and — to the home crowd’s delight — the kick missed the mark. Bradley nailed the Tritons’ first attempt with a shot to the left of the net. The Toros rebounded, netting their second attempt.

Freshman midfielder Jessica Wi then missed her fateful shot.

After two rounds, the score was tied 1-1. The Toros made their third kick, and sophomore forward Courtney Capobianco missed her attempt, leaving the Toros with a 2-1 advantage. Dominguez Hills missed its fourth kick, offering the Tritons a brief glimmer of hope before sophomore midfielder Sara Bolton missed her shot. The next Toro kicker found the back of the net, sealing the deal and ending the season for UCSD.

“We were by far the better team tonight,” McManus said. “The possessions we had, the buildups we had — I thought we were much, much better.”

In terms of possession, the Triton offense dominated the entire match. UCSD outshot Dominguez Hills by a whopping 14 shots, leading the Toros 24-10. The Tritons also had a huge 12-3 corner-kick advantage.

“That team tonight gave me everything,” McManus said. “Any other team, down 2-0 to Dominguez in the second half, would have buckled. We knew there was time; we knew we could still play. I have no problems with this team whatsoever. They’ll come back next year, [and] they’ll be a year older and a year stronger.”

Readers can contact John Beck at [email protected].

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