Mens Soccer End Up-and-Down Season

    After losing its previous four games three weeks ago, UCSD was on the outside looking in as it dropped to No. 4 in the very competitive South Division. With five schools all virtually tied in the standings, it seemed a long shot for UCSD to break into the top four. But with Sonoma faltering down the home stretch, losing and tying their last four matches, the Seawolves opened a window for the Tritons to sneak into the last seed.

    “When you end on such a good note like what we did, it’s hard to be upset,” assistant coach Eric Bucchere said. “But I’m sure once we look back on it, we’ll be a little disappointed. I think if we would have found a little more of a consistent rhythm throughout the year it would have been enough to get us into the playoffs.”

    Needing wins in their last two games for a shot at qualification, UCSD came out fired up on Friday. However, the Tritons fell into the familiar pattern of conceding the first goal, when in the ninth minute, San Francisco’s Edgar Villagrana picked off a pass sophomore defender Andrew Keimach intended for sophomore forward Tsuk Haroush. Threading through the Triton midfield, Villagrana got around UCSD’s last defender, sophomore Gavin Lamming to put the Gators up 1-0.

    The Tritons rallied to cut the deficit. Head coach Jon Pascale, who has worked with his substitutions well this season, made the call to replace sophomores Sam Ball and Andisheh Bagheri for juniors Adam Zernik and Jordan Valenciano.

    The change paid off just two minutes later. Zernik connected with sophomore midfielder Cory Wolfrom down the right side, who cut it back to Valenciano near the penalty area. Valenciano collected himself and sent a curved ball into the side netting to bring the score to 1-1.

    UCSD took the lead early in the second half, when sophomore defender Alec Arsht was pulled down in Sonoma’s 18-yard box to win a penalty-kick for the Tritons. With the team’s usual penalty-taker, junior midfielder Alex Portela, on the bench, Wolfrom took the shot and sent a clinical finish to the right corner.

    UCSD would finish the Gators off by scoring two more — both off assists by Wolfrom.

    “We did well to fight back,” Bucchere said. “We went a goal down and then our offense kind of exploded in the way that
    it’s capable of doing.”

    In their last game of the season on Sunday, the Tritons beat Cal Poly Pomona 1-0.

    The win lifted UCSD above Pomona in the conference standings, lifting the team to No. 3 in the South Division.

    Against Cal Poly Pomona, the lone goal came in the 39th minute, when Haroush cracked a shot that deflected off the frame. Wolfrom hustled down the flank, but was dragged down by a Pomona defender and awarded a penalty-kick.

    Again, Wolfrom stepped up and buried the ball past Pomona goalkeeper Anthony Iniguez.

    Up 1-0, the Tritons managed to hold onto the lead despite being out-shot by the Broncos 10-13. Brennan proved critical for the Tritons in the net, making five saves.

    “It was a complete performance,” Bucchere said. “In the attack and in the defense, it was a total team effort, and a great win for us.”

    Unfortunately, the Tritons’ four consecutive wins weren’t enough to claim the fourth seed. In order for UCSD to advance, Sonoma and Cal State Stanislaus both needed to drop their Sunday games. Sonoma fell to Chico State 0-1, but Stanislaus managed to sneak past Humboldt 1-0 for a place in the conference tournament.

    But the Tritons can take consolation in a few aspects of the 2011 campaign — specifically, the youth of the group and the clear progress in the rebuilding process.

    With only three or four upperclassmen starting regularly, the Tritons fared well for a relatively young squad. And even with an up-and-down season, the core group proved resilient, with some surprising assets that will only improve over time. Sophomores Wolfrom — named the CCAA Player of the Week after his two-goal weekend — and Arsht both
    earned all-CCAA honors.

    Despite graduating seniors who stood as fixtures for the program for three or four years, the Tritons have rebuilded well, still managing a winning record: 10-8-0 overall and 9-7-0 in the CCAA.

    “Throughout the season, what has let us down was our consistency.” Bucchere said. “But with all of our team back next year, I think we can look at this as a lesson for next season and hopefully we can find more of a consistent rhythm and make a run at the playoffs.”

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