Hawaiian Heroics

    The No. 12 women’s soccer team will advance to the third round  of the NCAA national tournament, after defeating first-round opponents San Francisco State 3-1 and second-round opponents Brigham Young University-Hawaii 1-0 on Saturday.

    After losing to San Francisco State last week in the first round of conference playoffs, UCSD got the better of the Gators in the opening match of the national tournament last Thursday, Nov. 11. The 3-1 victory marked the Tritons’ 11th win in their past 12 matches, as well as head coach Brian McManus’s 400th career win.

    The Gators opened up the scoring in the 50th minute when San Francisco State forward Kara Cunningham collected a pass and slotted the ball past junior Triton goalkeeper Kristin Armstrong, putting the Gators up 1-0.

    San Francisco State’s lead was shortlived, as a goal just two minutes later from junior midfielder Shelby Wong tied the game at 1-1. In the 52nd minute, junior forward and conference second team selection Sarah McTigue sparked the Triton offense when she got around her defender to get inside the Gator goalbox. McTigue found senior forward Annette Ilg, who fired a shot that was deflected to the feet of Wong, and the junior midfielder easily put the ball away to score her third goal of the season.

    The Tritons captured the lead in the 65th minute when sophomore defender Ellen Wilson scored off a corner kick from fellow sophomore defender Hayley Johnson. The Tritons outshot the Gators 4 to 23, and secured the win in the 83rd minute with an unassisted goal from junior midfielder Courtney Capobianco.

    “I think we went into the second half with a lot of energy and confidence,” Wong said. “When we went down early, we responded really well to get the tying goal, and then another two to take the lead. After playing San Francisco earlier, we knew we had the ability to take it to them, and when it really counted, we did what we had to do to make sure that everything was left out on the field once the final whistle blew.”

    The win moved UCSD into the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the team faced No. 2 seed Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

    The game’s lone goal came early in the match when the defensive pairing of Wilson and Johnson combined for their third game-winning goal of the season. In the 15th minute of the match, Johnson lined up to take what would be one of her 15 corner kicks of the night. Johnson sent the ball into the box to find the head of Wilson, and the sophomore was able to beat her defender to put the Tritons up 1-0.

    The goal marked the ninth assist for Johnson — who was recently awarded all-conference honorable mention — and Wilson’s third goal of the season.

    From then on, Wilson and Johnson, along with junior defender Sara Spaventa and senior midfielder Lisa Bradley, effectively shut out the BYU attack to preserve the Tritons’ 1-0 lead. The Seasiders, who had only one loss this season coming into the match, were allowed only seven shots on goal, none of which were on frame.

    “Our entire team had a solid weekend,” Wilson said. “Defensively, we were able to shut down BYU’s threats because of our cover for each other. Our players coming off the bench also made huge impacts on the game and raised our level of play.”

    UCSD will advance to the Sweet 16 to make its second consecutive appearance in the third round of the national tournament. The Tritons will face No. 1 seed Seattle Pacific University next Thursday in Texas on the campus of St. Edward’s University.

    The Tritons will find a tough opponent in ninth-ranked Seattle Pacific. The Falcons are 16-1-2 overall and have won their past nine matches. Seattle Pacific also boasts a recent national championship, winning the national tournament in 2008 after defeating the Tritons in the first round of the West Regionals.

    But Wilson said the Triton squad is feeling strong and will be ready for its next challenge.

    “Our team is confident going into the next round, and we’re ready to work hard to get the job done,” Wilson said. “With our season having been cut short last year in the Sweet 16 by [Cal State Dominguez Hills], we are especially motivated to advance.”


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