LA JOLLA, Calif. - Justin Walmsley’s header floated almost in slow motion across the goalmouth and into the left corner, and just like that, the sixth-ranked UC San Diego men’s soccer team’s lengthy shutout streak was finally over.
In a tight, physical and entertaining match that lived up to its billing as pitting the top two teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) South Division Sunday at Triton Soccer Stadium, visiting Chico State came away with the 1-0 overtime triumph.
At 92:09, Justin Saul’s free kick found Walmsley’s head for the sophomore defender’s third goal of the season, all of them game-winners.
The result snapped UCSD’s win streak at seven, with all seven having come in shutout fashion. On Sunday, the Tritons stretched that shutout streak to 766:07 before Walmsley struck. They had not conceded since the 46:01 mark of a 1-0 loss at Cal State L.A. back on Sept. 15. Completing a clean sheet against the Wildcats would have tied the program record of eight straight shutouts from the 1988 NCAA Division III national championship season.
UCSD dropped to 9-2-1 overall and 7-2-1 in the CCAA. Chico State (10-2, 8-2 CCAA), which began the day a single point behind, hurdled over the Tritons and moved atop the divisional standings. With Cal State L.A. taking a 1-0 decision at home over Cal State Stanislaus on Sunday, UCSD now sits in third in the South. The victory was Chico State’s fifth in succession, with the last four of them shutouts.
The South Division rivals thus split the 2013 season series, each winning 1-0 on the opponent’s field, the Tritons having knocked off the then-14th-ranked Wildcats in their home opener at University Soccer Stadium on Sept. 20 courtesy of Taylor Wirth’s (Escondido/La Costa Canyon HS) first career goal in the 28th minute.
Josh Cohen made four saves in goal for UCSD, while senior counterpart Sam Evans wound up with two stops in earning credit for the individual clean sheet.
The Wildcats outshot the Tritons on the afternoon, 15-10. They had a trio of earlier opportunities to dent the scoreline in the second half, with two through Luke Palmer. The senior midfielder first maneuvered through traffic and fired off a left-footed shot that Cohen had to go down to his left to save in the 56th minute.
Then in the 72nd, Palmer had another left-footed bullet skim just over the crossbar. Just over two minutes later, Cohen made a diving stop to his left of an Octavio Guzman shot.
For UCSD, good combination play from seniors Andisheh Bagheri and Cory Wolfrom led to Brandon Bauman receiving the ball in a dangerous spot on the right side of the opposing penalty area with two minutes remaining in regulation, but the junior midfielder’s attempt traveled wide of the target.
A season-long six-match homestand continues with two more divisional showdowns next weekend. UCSD hosts Cal State Dominguez Hills on Friday, Oct. 18. Kickoff at Triton Soccer Stadium is set for 4:30 p.m., preceding the women’s game at 7 p.m.
Triton Notes: UCSD still leads the all-time series, 9-6-2 ... UCSD was 3-0-1 in the previous four meetings in La Jolla with Chico State since a 3-1 ‘Cats victory on Oct. 3, 2003, when current U.S. national team forward and reigning Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes assisted on the opener ... The Wildcats were scoreless against the Tritons over 317:08 before Sunday’s decider ... UCSD suffered its first loss at Triton Soccer Stadium this season after a 4-0 start, and allowed its first goal there after 452:08 of clean soccer ... The Tritons still have not let up more than one goal in any of their last 16 matches dating back to the end of the 2012 campaign ... Chico State’s 15 shots were a season high by a UCSD opponent in 2013.