DENVER - The 17th-ranked UC San Diego men’s soccer team was eliminated on penalty kicks by No. 12 Simon Fraser in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Division II Championship Friday at Regis University Match Pitch.
The official result of the contest was a 1-1 draw, with the Clan advancing 4-3 on penalty kicks.
UCSD completed its incredible season, the program’s best since moving up from the NCAA Division III to Division II in 2000, at 14-3-5 overall. Simon Fraser, the NCAA’s only Canadian school from Burnaby, British Columbia, and a 2012 national semifinalist, moved to 17-2-2 in earning its second straight West Region crown. The Clan advance to the quarterfinal round in Denver on Sunday against host Regis, a come-from-behind 2-1 overtime winner over No. 7 Midwestern State in the late game. The Tritons were the West’s No. 2 seed, with SFU the No. 4 seed.
Friday’s third-round affair matched Division II’s third-ranked defense in UCSD at 0.5 goals allowed per game, and its top offense in SFU with 69 goals, or 3.45 per outing.
Josh Cohen made two more spectacular saves in the tiebreaker after stopping three shots last Saturday night at home to carry UCSD past Chico State and into Friday’s contest in Denver. The Tritons had two attempts come off the crossbar and another go wide, however, before Jules Chopin found the lower left corner in the sixth round.
Brandon Bauman, Alec Arsht and Malek Bashti accounted for the three made kicks for UCSD. The Tritons were in position to end it in the fifth round following Bashti’s second successful shootout try in as many matches, but Colin Jacques was able to solve Cohen’s magic after back-to-back stops and extend matters to one final stanza.
The first shot of the game came from Simon Fraser’s Jovan Blagojevic on the left side of the penalty box in the seventh minute, but Cohen was equal to the task to smother the ball.
Meanwhile, each side received abrupt yellow cards over the first seven minutes, with Alessandro Canale the unfortunate party for the Tritons.
Andisheh Bagheri had a long-range left-footed effort in the 15th minute that Watson was only able to tip over the crossbar for a corner kick. It was not Bagheri’s last try.
At 25:33, UCSD was first onto the scoreboard. Cory Wolfrom sent a looping pass from the right diagonal toward the penalty spot, where Canale just barely stayed onside to slam his right-footed shot low into the right side of the goal for his fifth of 2013 and first since Oct. 6.
With under 10 minutes left in the opening half, Pleskow sent a shot in from the right side of the penalty area that wound up wide to the left of the target, with Arsht unable to get a touch to turn the ball in from the middle of the six-yard box.
Shots were 5-4 in favor of the Tritons nursing the 1-0 edge at the break.
Blagojevic put a strong header to a right-sided cross three-plus minutes in after the second-half whistle, but it was deflected and went out to the right for a corner kick.
In the 64th minute, Blagojevic made his way to the end line on the left side and crossed on the ground into the area. Carlo Basso took a left-footed swing at it flashing across the box, but Gavin Lamming was shadowing the big senior and blocked the dangerous shot away.
Moments later, it was almost 2-0 as Arsht’s fine run down the right wing led to a perfect cross into the middle for Canale to find the back of the net again, but the junior from Venice was marginally offside and the goal was disallowed.
Shortly after coming on for the first time, senior Tsuk Haroush shook his defender on the left side and produced a left-footed ball that went wide of the right post after eluding Bashti in the center.
At 86:43, an SFU throw-in from the left found its way through traffic to the near post, where Blagojevic toe-poked his shot on the ground and in for a 1-1 deadlock and overtime. Magnus Kristensen was credited with an assist on the score. It was a ninth goal on the year for Blagojevic to put him in a tie for the team lead.
Bagheri had two chances to win it in the initial extra period, as the first of two right-footed blasts was tipped over the bar again by Watson at 93:52, and the second after a short set-up by Gefen from the left cracked off the inside of the left post and away.
Watson saved SFU’s life at 108:29 of the second overtime, diving to his right to somehow parry away Canale’s right-footed attempt after Pleskow’s pinpoint cross. With the final seconds ticking away, it was UCSD dodging a serious bullet as Jacques pounced on a turnover and found himself on a breakaway, only for Cohen to go down to his left to deny.
Cohen made five saves in all prior to the tiebreaker. Watson, a redshirt freshman, had four stops for SFU, which ultimately led 20-11 on shots taken on the afternoon.
The end of the contest marked the conclusion of the college careers of 11 valuable Triton seniors in Arsht, Bagheri, Cohen, Gefen, Haroush, Lamming, Pleskow, Wolfrom, Jesse Brennan, Nick Roberts and Taylor Wirth.
Triton Notes: This was the first meeting between UCSD and Simon Fraser ... The Tritons are 0-1-2 all-time in two appearances at the NCAA Division II Championship and 26-11-6 in 17 NCAA postseason appearances overall (including 15 prior Division III berths) ... UCSD finished 7-2-2 away from La Jolla this season, achieving its most wins away from home since 1993 (9-1-1) ... The Tritons were 2-1-5 in eight overtime contests in 2013 ... UCSD had seven seniors in its starting lineup ... The Tritons were an undefeated 11-0-2 when scoring first and 8-0-1 when leading at halftime this year, the lone blemish in the latter category coming Friday ... Wirth (Escondido/La Costa Canyon HS) appeared in the first postseason game of his four-year Triton career after having to miss the last three matches through injury ... UCSD has still not let up more than one goal in any of its last 26 matches since a 3-0 loss at Cal State Dominguez Hills late in the 2012 campaign ... Game-time temperature in Denver was 25 degrees, but the field was clear and no new snow fell.