LA JOLLA, Calif. - Senior Andisheh Bagheri scored twice in a span of just 58 seconds with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation to lift the 18th-ranked UC San Diego men’s soccer team to a dramatic 2-1 triumph over Cal State Monterey Bay Sunday at Triton Soccer Stadium.
The result clinched the Tritons’ first California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championship berth since 2005 and sixth in all. UCSD will head to Turlock for a second time this season 10 days from now to participate in the four-team event, Nov. 8-10.
The victory improved UCSD’s records to 12-2-2 overall and 10-2-2 in the CCAA.
The Tritons had started the day in third place in the CCAA South, two points behind leader Chico State and one back of Cal State L.A. Sunday’s win, combined with a scoreless draw in Chico between the Wildcats and Golden Eagles, moved UCSD into a first-place tie in the division with Chico State heading into one final weekend of regular-season play.
Trailing 1-0, Gavin Lamming lifted a deep free kick from the left sideline in his own half which junior striker Alessandro Canale corralled. Canale shook free of his defender and eventually provided a short pass toward the middle. Bagheri was first to latch onto it, and guided his low shot into the opposite corner for a 1-1 deadlock at the 80:14 mark.
Before two full minutes even went by, Bagheri stepped onto the scene again, and in a big way. Will Pleskow crossed from the right, Canale gathered, spun and laid the ball off. Bagheri ran onto it from the right edge of the penalty box and absolutely hammered a right-footed shot across the goal mouth and into the upper left corner behind a hapless Evan Drake in the Otter net at 81:12.
The top-class strike effectively triggered a Triton dogpile near the center of the field. UCSD killed off the final 8:48 before saluting the crowd, with Lamming then joined by fourth-year senior center back partner Alec Arsht in dousing sixth-year head coach Jon Pascale with a bucket of ice water.
It was an appropriate reaction to Pascale seeing Arsht, Lamming and seven other deserving Triton seniors guide the program back to the postseason after reaching the doorstep in each of the past three seasons, only to fall painstakingly short of that target.
One of those veteran seniors, All-American goalkeeper Josh Cohen, finished the match with three saves. Drake made five stops for the Otters. UCSD outshot CSUMB for the match, 17-7, including 11-2 in the second half.
Lamming and Canale were each credited with assists on the equalizer, and the same for Pleskow and Canale on the cracking winner. Canale’s pair and Lamming’s were their firsts of the year, with Pleskow helping set up his second in as many games.
Bagheri’s incredible day was littered with superlatives. The fourth-year Triton playmaker marked his first career brace, which meant a fourth consecutive match with a goal, having found the back of the opposing net a total of five times during this stretch. Remarkably, Bagheri entered the 2013 campaign with just two career goals, and leads the team with nine on the season, including six game-winners, a haul that easily tops the conference as the next closest number in that category is three. With the Tritons winners of three straight, Bagheri has accounted for the decider in all three matches.
At the conclusion of the 2012 season, it was not even known whether Bagheri would be back this year. He was recognized on Senior Day last October before completing his undergraduate degree in physiology and neuroscience back in June. Having then been accepted into the graduate program at UCSD in biology, Bagheri ultimately opted to utilize his fourth and final season of college eligibility, laying the groundwork for what has been an impactful finale, to say the least.
CSUMB had gotten on the scoreboard in the 27th minute through a strong, whipped header into the upper left corner by senior forward Servando Perez from a right-sided Marco Rangel cross. Like Bagheri, the goal left Perez with a team-best nine.
Leading up to Bagheri’s heroics, UCSD hounded the Otter penalty area, with several attempts either blocked away by defenders or saved by Drake. Canale, who looked in the mood from the moment he first stepped on as a substitute in the 25th minute, had good opportunities to score on either side of halftime. He was denied at the near post by Drake off a right-sided Pleskow cross in the 35th minute, and later had his header tipped over the crossbar again by Drake in the 76th.
Cohen had a critical double save in the 28th minute to keep the deficit at one, first allowing a rebound of an Alberto Anguiano effort before springing off the ground to make up for it by turning back Anthony Velazquez from point-blank range.
Having concluded a season-long six-game homestand at 4-1-1, UCSD next makes the short trip to Pomona on Friday, Nov. 1, to take on division rival Cal Poly Pomona at 4:30 p.m. The Tritons control their own fate for CCAA Championship seeding. Win their remaining two matches next week, and they will be the No. 1 seed in Turlock.
Triton Notes: UCSD leads the all-time series, 6-2-2, and is now unbeaten over its last seven (5-0-2) against CSUMB, with four of those five wins now one-goal margins ... The Tritons have won four straight meetings ... UCSD is an undefeated 3-0-2 against the Otters at Triton Soccer Stadium, with Perez’s 27th-minute opener Sunday marking CSUMB’s first ever goal in La Jolla after 426:31 of scoreless soccer ... The goal snapped a stretch of 473:57 shutout minutes for UCSD against the Otters, regardless of venue ... UCSD is 7-1-1 at Triton Soccer Stadium in 2013 with just four goals allowed in 832:09 ... The 12 wins are the Tritons’ most in the Division II era, having last gone 12-4-3 in their final season in Division III in 1999 ... UCSD’s 10 CCAA wins are a new high since the program joined the league in 2000 ... Bagheri’s nine strikes are the most by a Triton since Pascale took charge in 2008, and the most since former All-American Matt Davey tallied 10 times as a senior in 2005 ... The Tritons still have not let up more than one goal in any of their past 20 matches since a 3-0 loss at Cal State Dominguez Hills late in the 2012 campaign ... Sunday’s affair was UCSD’s second come-from-behind, 2-1 victory of 2013, having accomplished the feat in the season opener at California Baptist on Sept. 5, the winner in that one also coming from Bagheri via overtime penalty kick.