LA JOLLA, Calif. - For the first time since 2012 and seventh in all, the University of California San Diego women's soccer team is atop the NCAA Division II West Region.
UC San Diego benefitted from two incredible individual efforts for goals and knocked off 2016 West Region and national champion Western Washington, 2-0, in front of a Friday night crowd of 558 at Triton Soccer Stadium.
With the victory in the third round of the NCAA Championship, third-ranked and top-seeded host UC San Diego improved to 17-2-2 overall. The Tritons stretched their unbeaten run to 16 (14-0-2) games, and remain a perfect 13-0 at home in 2017. They have won each of their last 19 home contests.
UCSD exacted a measure of revenge for a 2-1 overtime loss to Western Washington in the West Region title game a season ago, that one in Golden, Colo. The Vikings end their campaign at 18-2, with the Tritons having snapped their 23-game win streak outside of Bellingham, Wash., dating back to the 2016 opener. A respected adversary, Western Washington had lost just once over its previous 44 contests, now 42-2-1 over the last two seasons, and was looking for a third successive regional crown.
Instead, it was UC San Diego adding another Division II West Region championship after prior titles in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2012.
Barber's opener came with just 23 seconds remaining in the first half. The sequence began with some considerable team build-up as Delaney Whittet played Abby Ross down the left flank on UCSD's half of the field. Ross got it to a third true freshman, Alexis Kirson, who provided arguably the key touch, deftly relaying it inside to senior Brie Diaz, who found Barber ahead. She did the rest, dribbling 25-30 yards toward the penalty area before producing a right-footed blast from just outside the box. Viking senior goalkeeper Ashley Homer could only get a slight hand to it as the ball glanced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net for Barber's third on the year. With Barber's lengthy run, it was credited as unassisted.
Reilly largely shut the door at 82:53. Having received a bouncing ball around the center of the field, she cut the defender, 2016 National Soccer Coaches Association of America National Player of the Year Sierra Shugarts, no less, with her right foot, then a second time back the other way, before coming up with the most lethal of right-footed shots into the upper right that left Homer helpless. It was Reilly's team-best ninth, and also given as unassisted. The strike was on the same target, and of essentially the same quality, as Reilly's opener in Sunday's win over Concordia (OR).
Katie Wilkes, a true freshman who had just on Sunday made her college debut in the second round of the NCAA Championship due to a season-ending injury to starter Angelica Ramos, notched her first collegiate shutout against a tremendously formidable opponent in the 2016 national champion Vikings. Wilkes made three saves. Homer finished with four stops on the opposite end.
Western Washington held a 19-12 advantage in shots, but even aside from the two goals, the Tritons created the more dangerous opportunities. Reilly rattled the crossbar with another strong right-footed shot from distance in the 27th minute on the heels of some nice work by junior winger Summer Bales on her left flank.
UCSD also forced Homer into a pair of difficult stops in the second half, both off the right foot of senior All-American striker Katie O'Laughlin (Carlsbad/Pacific Ridge School). In the 57th, senior Elisa Martinez (El Cajon/Francis Parker School) sent in a free kick from the right side that was flicked toward the far post, but Homer barely got her left hand to O'Laughlin's hard shot and sent it out for a corner kick. Then in the 81st, freshman Michelle Baddour (San Diego/University City HS) showed some promising skill down the right flank and stuck with the play until she freed herself up near the end line. Her cross found O'Laughlin, whose shot seemed destined to be heading over Homer and into the far netting, but to Homer's credit, she managed to slap it away and out of danger.
The Vikings' junior forward tandem of Gabriela Pelogi and Karli White had entered with 15 and 10 goals, respectively, but were held to just a combined five shots, with only one on frame. Sophomores Natalie Saddic (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) and Lauren Plesse, and senior Aimee Ellis and freshman Delaney Whittet as outside backs, all of course played a large role in that effort, with Plesse effective in particular on Pelogi. It was a fourth straight start for Plesse this postseason, with Saddic still in her new role behind her while Diaz makes her way back from injury.
Wilkes had to make one difficult stop in the 70th on senior Emily Webster's hard-hit free kick aimed at the upper right corner, pushing it over the bar for a corner kick.
UC San Diego advances to the national quarterfinals, which it will also host, this Sunday, Nov. 19, taking on the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in a first-ever meeting between the sides. UCCS edged Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Colorado School of Mines, 3-2, in the South Central Region final ahead of the West final Friday in La Jolla. Sunday's kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Triton Soccer Stadium. Parking is free, as is the broadcast on UCSDtritons.tv, in high definition, for those unable to attend.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego is 26-11-3 in its 15 NCAA Division II Championship appearances, and 3-1 against Western Washington in tournament games ... The Tritons are 6-3-1 all-time against WWU, snapping a three-game losing skid tonight to the Vikings ... UCSD has won 19 straight at home overall, since a 1-0 defeat to Colorado School of Mines on Sept. 11, 2016 ... The Tritons have allowed seven goals during their current 16-game unbeaten streak (14-0-2), the first one an own goal at Cal State Dominguez Hills on Sept. 22 ... Senior starters Makenzie Brito and Jordyn McNutt, alongside redshirt sophomore starting goalkeeper Angelica Ramos, were all unavailable ... Elisa Martinez was in the starting lineup after exiting in the first half of last Sunday's second-round match, and fellow senior Brie Diaz returned to the field, off the bench, after missing the previous three games due to injury ... In back-to-back seasons, UCSD has won its first three games and lost its next two before running off a 16-game unbeaten streak (16-0 last year prior to WWU loss in regional final, and 14-0-2 this season) ... Western Washington was shut out for just the second time in 2017, the other instance the Vikings' only other loss, 2-0 at home in their regular-season finale against Concordia (OR) ... Tonight was UCSD and WWU's third meeting in a West final, with the Vikings winning 2-1 in overtime last year in Golden, Colo., and the Tritons in Denver, Colo., in 2012, also 2-1 in overtime.