POMONA, Calif. - The 17th-ranked UC San Diego men’s soccer team did what it does best on Friday at Kellogg Field, playing solid defense and getting just enough offense in a 1-0 victory over Cal Poly Pomona.
Senior midfielder Will Pleskow’s lone goal in the 52nd minute was the difference as the Tritons defeated their California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) South Division rival by an identical 1-0 scoreline for the fifth consecutive meeting.
UCSD, which had already clinched a berth in next week’s CCAA Championship in Turlock with a pair of home victories last weekend, improved to 13-2-2 overall and 11-2-2 in league play. The Tritons have now won four straight matches. CPP dropped to 6-7-4 overall and 4-7-4 in the CCAA.
The result marked UCSD’s 10th shutout of the season, all wins, with six of them of the 1-0 margin. The Triton defense, with Josh Cohen in goal and Alec Arsht, Gavin Lamming, Matthew McClure and Brett Sampiere (Solana Beach/Torrey Pines HS) along the back line, entered the match with the second-best goals-against average in all of the NCAA Division II at 0.42, having led the nation in that category a year ago.
The Tritons are tied with No. 22 Chico State for second place in the South, both one point behind 11th-ranked Cal State L.A. If UCSD beats CSULA in the regular-season finale this Sunday in La Jolla, it would garner at least a share of the South crown, with the Tritons holding the tiebreaker over Chico State for the top seed in Turlock, should the Wildcats also win their match at Cal State Monterey Bay.
Just 6:07 into the contest, the home side earned a penalty kick due to a hand ball call against UCSD in its own area. Bronco freshman Luis Najera, Jr. stepped up to take it, but his attempt was saved by a diving Cohen. It was the senior All-American’s second spot-kick denial of the season, having previously turned away the league’s leading scorer in Zach Hammond in a 2-0 home win over Humboldt State back on Sept. 27.
The first half came to completion with the Tritons holding a 9-7 advantage in shots taken.
At the 51:49 mark, UCSD was on the scoreboard, as Pleskow tallied his first goal of the season and third of his Triton career, taking a feed up the field from junior striker Alessandro Canale, dribbling into the box and finding the lower left with his shot from 14 yards. Pleskow had drawn his third start of the year in the absence of playmaker and fellow senior Andisheh Bagheri. The Washington transfer missed 10 matches through injury after starting the first two games of the 2013 campaign. Pleskow now has a goal and two assists over the past three contests.
The assist for Canale meant that the Santa Monica College transfer has set up each of UCSD’s last three goals, giving him three helpers in his first year as a Triton.
With just under four minutes remaining in regulation and CPP still chasing Pleskow’s goal, it was Cohen again rejecting Najera, Jr., this time off a header. One final attempt at an equalizer, by junior defender Jose Ortega, went harmlessly wide to the right with just 37 ticks left on the scoreboard clock.
Cohen handled three saves in the Triton net, notching his league-best 10th individual clean sheet of 2013 and 22nd of his career, third-best all-time in program history.
Junior Fernando Pablo Quevedo had four stops for the Broncos. CPP held a slight edge in the final shots total, 13-12. Canale and Najera led their sides with four each.
“It’s a small field, a hard place to play, and we came out a little flat, but we were able to turn it around,” remarked sixth-year Triton head coach Jon Pascale. “The guys played great. They were grinding for 90 minutes and it was a gutsy win.
“In terms of the big picture, it doesn’t change too much. After qualifying for the CCAA tournament last Sunday, we had the mindset that we weren’t done winning games. Tonight was kind of a gut check. They (my players) were excited to pick up the 13th win, the most any UCSD team has had in Division II. That was a motivator.
“Beyond that, things stay pretty much the same. We know the other three teams that will be in the CCAA tournament (Cal State L.A., Chico State and Sonoma State), and they’re all good. It’s like pick your poison. All season long, we haven’t worried about who we’re playing. We know that if we do the things we need to do, we’ll be fine.”
UCSD concludes the regular season back at home this Sunday, Nov. 3, its top-25 showdown with Cal State L.A. slated to kick off just after 11:30 a.m. on Senior Day at Triton Soccer Stadium. Eleven seniors will be recognized in a pregame ceremony set to begin at 11:20 a.m.
Triton Notes: UCSD leads the all-time series, 25-8-2, with CPP scoreless against the Tritons now for 475:31 ... UCSD took this season’s earlier match-up in La Jolla on Oct. 20 on a penalty-kick goal by Bagheri in the 38th minute ... Like Bagheri, fellow senior Cory Wolfrom was unavailable Friday, meaning a second career start for freshman forward Gerrit van Zyll, both starts coming over the past two matches ... Sam Palano made his collegiate debut as a late first-half substitute and played 32 minutes ... Twin brother Nick Palano made his seventh appearance off the bench and played a season-high 38 minutes ... UCSD has still not let up more than one goal in any of its last 21 matches since a 3-0 loss at Cal State Dominguez Hills late in the 2012 campaign ... The Tritons have posted 22 shutouts over their last 33 matches ... They are a perfect 11-0 this season when scoring first ... The 13 overall wins are UCSD’s most since going 13-6-2 in 1994.