UCSD IN NCAA DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD FOR SECOND TIME
Triton Soccer Stadium will play host to its first two NCAA Division II Men's Soccer Championship matches this week. The 17th-ranked Tritons (14-3-3) earned their first NCAA berth under sixth-year head coach Jon Pascale, first since 2003, and just their second at the Division II level when the 35-team field was announced on Monday evening. As the No. 2 seed in the West portion of the Super Region 4, UCSD receives a bye into the second round. Third-seeded Chico State (13-4-2) and sixth-seeded Seattle Pacific (12-3-3) will contest a first-round match beginning at noon in La Jolla on Thursday, Nov. 14. The Tritons await the winner in the second round underneath the lights at Triton Soccer Stadium this Saturday night, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. Both matches this week will have live stats. UCSD is 7-1-2 in La Jolla this season.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP TICKET INFORMATION
Tickets for the 2013 NCAA Championship can be purchased at Triton Soccer Stadium on the day of the game, beginning one hour prior to kickoff time, meaning 11 a.m. on Thursday and 6 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $8 for general admission, and $5 for seniors, youth and students with valid identification. Only cash will be accepted. Children aged seven and younger are admitted free of charge. The first 100 UCSD students on Saturday night can enter for free, courtesy of Triton Tide.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
UCSD will be making its second appearance at the NCAA Division II Championship when it takes the field this Saturday night against either Chico State or Seattle Pacific. The Tritons previously dropped a 2-0 decision on two late goals to Chico State in the Far West Regional semifinals at Toro Field in Carson on Nov. 14, 2003. Before that, UCSD went 26-10-4 (.700) in 15 NCAA Division III Championship appearances between 1983-99. That history includes three national titles in 1988, 1991 and 1993. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that very first title-winning side, and 20th of the last national championship.
TRITONS VS. 'CATS: PART IV?
Should Chico State defeat Seattle Pacific in the NCAA Championship's first round on Thursday afternoon, it would mean a fourth meeting this year between conference rivals on Saturday night in the second round. During the regular season, each team won a narrow 1-0 decision on the opponent's field. Taylor Wirth's (Escondido/La Costa Canyon HS) first collegiate goal at the 27:55 mark gave the Tritons the victory over then-14th-ranked Chico State in its home opener on Sept. 20, with Josh Cohen making three saves for the clean sheet. The Wildcats returned the favor in La Jolla on Oct. 13, with Justin Walmsley heading in a Justin Saul free kick at the 92:09 mark of the first overtime to nip UCSD, then ranked No. 6. The Tritons overturned a 1-0 halftime deficit to take the latest meeting in a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championship semifinal in Turlock last Friday, Nov. 8. Elan Gefen's first goal of 2013 served as the equalizer at 49:06 before Malek Bashti's first collegiate goal at 91:46 of overtime gave UCSD the 2-1 triumph. The two teams were both ranked prior to that one, with the Tritons 16th (tied-Quincy) and 'Cats 24th (tied-Slippery Rock).
CCAA CHAMPIONSHIP REWIND
In its sixth CCAA Championship appearance (now 2-5-1) and first since 2005, UCSD returned from Turlock over the weekend as the CCAA runner-up. The Tritons advanced into the final for the second time in program history, and were edged, 1-0, by then-11th-ranked Cal State L.A., with the Golden Eagles lifting their second banner in three years. Gefen and Bashti's goals put UCSD in that final, with Andre Bissmark notching the 85th-minute winner on Sunday. Bissmark had also tallied the late equalizer at 82:53 in La Jolla exactly one week prior, to give CSULA the South Division title and top seed at the CCAA tourney. Sunday's result snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) for UCSD. Andisheh Bagheri, Gavin Lamming, Will Pleskow and Cory Wolfrom earned spots on the All-Tournament Team. Pleskow assisted on both goals against Chico State on Friday, with Wolfrom providing the final pass ahead of Bashti's decider.
Seven UCSD players earned CCAA recognition when the conference announced its awards last Thursday night, Nov. 7. Pascale was chosen by his peers as CCAA Coach of the Year for the second successive season. Cohen was the Most Valuable Defensive Player for the second year running and made the All-CCAA First Team this time around after a second-team nod in 2012. Joining him on the first team were Bagheri and Alec Arsht. Arsht is now a two-time first-teamer, while Bagheri made the second team a year ago. Wirth was an All-CCAA honoree for the first time, making the second team. Garnering All-CCAA honorable mention were Lamming, junior striker Alessandro Canale and redshirt freshman right back Brett Sampiere (Solana Beach/Torrey Pines HS).
ELEVEN TRITONS HONORED ON SENIOR DAY
Eleven UCSD standouts were recognized prior to kickoff on Senior Day at Triton Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 3. The group is made up of Arsht, Bagheri, Cohen, Gefen, Lamming, Pleskow, Wirth, Wolfrom, Jesse Brennan, Tsuk Haroush and Nick Roberts.
UCSD moved down one spot, from No. 16 to No. 17, in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll, released Tuesday. The showing at No. 6 on Oct. 8 was the program's highest ranking of the Division II era (since 2000). Before ascending from No. 22 to No. 10 on Oct. 1, the Tritons previously were as high as No. 15 on Sept. 13, 2005. UCSD was last as high as sixth in any poll on Nov. 11, 1996, when it was No. 6 in the final Division III ranking of the 1996 regular season. In its first in-season installment of 2013 on Sept. 10, UCSD entered the NSCAA national rankings, at No. 25, for the very first time under Pascale. The Tritons' last appearance before that occurred on Nov. 1, 2005, at No. 19 ahead of the CCAA Championship.
TRITONS CLINCH CCAA TOURNEY RETURN
With a pair of 2-1 home triumphs the weekend of Oct. 25-27, UCSD clinched its first CCAA Championship berth since 2005. The Tritons finished in second place in the CCAA South Division, one point behind Cal State L.A., which picked up two extra points on Friday, Nov. 1, when seven points were taken away from Cal State Monterey Bay for three matches in which it fielded an ineligible player. UCSD needed to beat CSULA at home on Nov. 3, for its first divisional title since 2003 and the top seed at the CCAA Championship. The match ended in a 1-1 tie. Following a 2-0 loss at Cal State Monterey Bay in its regular-season finale, Chico State settled for third in the South, one point back of UCSD. Sonoma State took the last spot as the lone North entrant, winning that division with a 9-4-3 mark and 33 points.
Through games played on Nov. 10, the Tritons are fourth in the NCAA Division II in goals-against average (0.48), 11th in save percentage (0.844) and 12th in shutout percentage (0.5). Last season, they led the nation with a CCAA-record 0.44 GAA, and 0.71 shutout percentage. UCSD has kept 10 clean sheets out of 20 matches in 2013, including a stretch of seven straight shutout triumphs around which it did not surrender a goal for 766:07, that was snapped on Oct. 13. It marked the program's longest shutout streak in Division II, second-longest ever (845:12 in 1988) and fourth of 400-plus minutes since the start of the 2012 campaign. Individually, Cohen, No. 1 nationally in 2012 in goals-against average (0.397) and save percentage (.898), is currently fourth in GAA (0.482) and 16th in save percentage (0.841). The Tritons have given up only one goal in each of their other 10 contests, and have allowed no more than one score over the past 24 games going back to a 3-0 loss at Cal State Dominguez Hills on Oct. 14, 2012. UCSD has posted 22 shutouts over its last 36.
BAGHERI BAGGING THE GOALS
Having entered his fourth and final season in a Triton uniform with two career goals, Bagheri has enjoyed a breakout campaign. He leads the team with 10 goals, tied for fourth-best in the conference. That haul includes a league-best six game-winners, with no other player in the CCAA having more than four. The Davis native had tallied in five straight matches, missing the road win at Cal Poly Pomona on Nov. 1, with six goals during the stretch before being held without one by Chico State on Nov. 8. The 10 strikes are the most by a Triton since former All-American Matt Davey achieved that total as a senior in 2005. Courtesy of goals in six of eight matches in the month of October, with seven in all to lead UCSD to a 6-1-1 record, Bagheri was named on Nov. 5 as a San Diego Hall of Champions Star of the Month.
CCAA STAT LEADERS
Cohen is second in the CCAA in goals-against average (0.48), shutouts (10) and save percentage (0.841), and tied for fourth in least goals against (10). Bagheri has two more game-winning goals, six, than anybody else in the conference. He is tied for fourth with 10 goals and fifth with 21 points. Brandon Bauman is tied for third with a team-best five assists. Canale, like Bauman a junior newcomer, is tied for 17th with four goals, tied for 19th with 11 points, and tied for 22nd with three assists. Pleskow is tied for 13th with four assists.
ACADEMIC HONORS FOR TRITON PAIR
Arsht and Bagheri were each named Oct. 31 to the Capital One Academic All-District Men's Soccer First Team for the NCAA Division II District 8. Both are now two-time honorees, with Bagheri having earned the distinction in 2012 as well, and Arsht in 2011. They each move on to the Capital One Academic All-America ballot, with those awards being announced on Nov. 25.
BACK-LINE MATES AND WEEKLY CCAA HONOREES
UCSD's fourth-year senior center back tandem of Arsht and Lamming both earned Wilson/CCAA Player of the Week selection for UCSD this season. Arsht was named on Oct. 7. He led a pair of shutout road victories as the Tritons let up just 12 shot attempts over 180 minutes, and added his first goal of 2013 to cap a 2-0 triumph at Cal State East Bay on Oct. 6. Lamming was chosen on Sept. 24, similarly after anchoring the defense to two shutout road wins, over divisional foes who each entered that weekend undefeated. Lamming also headed in a 27th-minute corner kick from junior teammate Jacob Valadez for the lone goal at Cal State San Bernardino on Sept. 22.
In blanking then-No. 14 Chico State and Cal State San Bernardino 1-0 away from home on Sept. 20 and 22, respectively, UCSD completed its first sweep of a CCAA road weekend since 2010. That year, the Tritons edged Cal State Monterey Bay, 1-0 in Seaside on Friday, Sept. 24, before blanking San Francisco State, 2-0, two days later. UCSD repeated the two-game road sweep two weekends later, achieving comfortable 2-0 scorelines at defending CCAA champion Cal State Stanislaus on Oct. 4 and Cal State East Bay on Oct. 6. At 7-2-1, the Tritons have their most wins away from home since 1993, when they went 9-1-1 outside of La Jolla en route to their third NCAA Division III title.
UCSD is 11-0-1 when scoring first in 2013 and 8-0 when leading at halftime ... The Tritons' 14 overall wins are their most under Pascale, most in Division II, and most in exactly two decades, since the 1993 Division III national championship side finished 21-2-1 ... UCSD's 11 CCAA victories reflect a program record ... The Tritons got off to their best 10-game start (8-1-1) of the Division II era, and best since an unbeaten 9-0-1 opening to the 1988 Division III national championship season ... The seven-game win streak earlier this year was the Tritons' best in Division II, and longest since a nine-gamer in 1996 ... Cohen is now the only Triton to have played all 1867:52 in 2013 ... Arsht, Lamming, Sampiere and junior left back Matthew McClure have made up the back four in front of Cohen for a large majority of the current campaign and virtually every minute of the seven-game shutout stretch ... Cohen handled his 100th career save early in the opener at California Baptist (9/5), and his career-best 10 shutouts in 2013 give him a career total of 22, third-most in program history and tops in the Division II era ... Bagheri paces the team with 10 goals, 21 points and six game-winning goals ... Bagheri's winners have come on an overtime penalty kick at CBU, free kick vs. Sonoma State (9/29), penalties vs. CSUSB (10/11) and CPP (10/20), and second-half goals vs. SF State (10/25) and CSUMB (10/27) ... Bauman's team-leading five assists are the most by a Triton since Wolfrom set up eight scores in 2011 ... Bauman collected two assists each vs. Point Loma (9/7) and at Cal State East Bay (10/6), with Canale adding a two-assist game vs. CSUMB and Pleskow vs. Chico State (11/8) ... Two of Wolfrom's three goals in 2013 have been game-winners ... The 2-1 victory at CBU was UCSD's first of the comeback variety since a 4-1 home defeat of SF State on Oct. 28, 2011 ... The Tritons have since produced two more come-from-behind 2-1 wins, vs. CSUMB and at the CCAA Championship vs. Chico State (11/8) ... UCSD produced five 1-0 victories in 2012 and has six more in 2013, with Bagheri accounting for the lone goal in three of them.
HEAD COACH JON PASCALE
Pascale, now a two-time CCAA Coach of the Year through back-to-back honors in 2012 and 2013, has posted a 58-36-17 (.599) overall record in his sixth season in charge of the UCSD men's soccer program. The 1-0 home victory over Sonoma State on Sept. 29 gave him career win No. 50, while the 2-0 triumph at Cal State Stanislaus on Oct. 4 marked his 100th match at the Triton helm. Pascale directed his first postseason tilt last Friday in Turlock, and will make his NCAA Championship debut as a head coach this Saturday night in La Jolla.
ABOUT THE WILDCATS
Chico State, which dropped out of the No. 24 spot in the national rankings and is now among other teams receiving votes, enters the NCAA Championship at 13-4-2 overall. The Wildcats completed the league slate at 11-3-2 and in third place in the CCAA South Division with 35 points. Chico State is making its third NCAA Championship appearance in the last four years and 12th at the Division II level (14-10-1, .580). The 'Cats have nine players on their current roster from the 2010 squad that won the program a seventh West Region crown. They have dropped two straight on the heels of a 10-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2), with a 2-0 setback at Cal State Monterey Bay in their regular-season finale and a 2-1 loss to UCSD in the conference semifinals in Turlock last Friday. Chico State is 10th in the country with a 0.67 goals-against average, having allowed 13 opponent scores. Junior forward Octavio Guzman leads the squad with 16 points from five goals and six assists. Three teammates have three goals apiece, while senior winger Luis Martinez, Chico State's lone representative on the CCAA Championship All-Tournament Team, has one goal and four assists. Senior Sam Evans (0.64 GAA, 17 saves, five shutouts) has started each of the last 12 contests in the net. The Wildcats were new to the South Division this year, swapping spots with SF State in the CCAA's two-year rotation. Chico State lost 3-2 to Cal State Stanislaus in Carson in the 2012 CCAA Championship final, its second successive defeat in the conference title match. Felipe Restrepo is in his sixth season in charge. The Wildcats are 9-3 away from home in 2013.
UCSD leads the all-time series, 10-6-2. Prior to last Friday's Triton victory in Turlock and a split of the two regular-season meetings this year, these teams played to a scoreless draw on Oct. 21, 2012, on Senior Day in La Jolla, with Cohen making a pair of stops over the 110 minutes. Chico State had been scoreless against UCSD for 317:08 prior to Walmsley's overtime winner on Oct. 13.
ABOUT THE FALCONS
Seattle Pacific is 12-3-3 overall and finished second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) to No. 12 Simon Fraser with a 10-1-3 league mark. The Falcons have qualified for their third straight NCAA Division II Championship and 32nd in all (41-23-5, .630), having been crowned national champions five times. Their most recent championship, however, came in 1993. They lost 1-0 to Chico State in Seattle in their 2013 opener, so Thursday's first-round affair will serve as a rematch. That defeat triggered a school-record 14-match unbeaten string (11-0-3). A 4-1 victory at Saint Martin's last Saturday snapped a subsequent two-match losing skid. SPU has accounted for one of just two losses for Simon Fraser this season, 2-1 in Seattle on Oct. 3 when the Clan was 8-0 coming in and ranked No. 1 nationally. Three players lead the squad with four goals apiece in freshman Stephen MacDonald, junior Sean Russell and sophomore Bryson Pavel. Sophomore Danny Olivas has three goals and four assists, while senior Blaine Carver has contributed three goals and three assists. Freshman Jordan Kollars has a team-best five assists. Redshirt freshman Cody Lang (0.75 GAA, 63 saves, GNAC-best eight shutouts) has played every minute in goal for SPU. Mark Collings is in his sixth year as the head coach at his alma mater. The Falcons are 6-2-1 outside of Seattle this season.
Seattle Pacific leads the all-time series, 3-2. The teams have never met in the postseason. UCSD has won the last two match-ups following three straight defeats in 1982 (4-1 in La Jolla), 1993 (2-1 at neutral site) and 2001 (3-1 in La Jolla). The most recent meeting came on Oct. 25, 2008, with UCSD a 5-0 winner in La Jolla. Prior to that. the Tritons upset then-sixth-ranked SPU, 1-0, in Seattle on Sept. 26, 2007. The Tritons are 1-2 against the Falcons at home.
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THE BIG PICTURE
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If the Tritons win their second-round match on Saturday night, they will travel the following weekend, as the third round and national quarterfinal contests for Super Region 4 are slotted on a rotation to be hosted this year by the higest remaining seed among teams from the South Central, meaning Regis University in Denver, Colo.