POMONA, Calif. - Michelle Yasutake couldn’t have picked a better time or a bigger spot for her first collegiate goal.
The redshirt sophomore defender scored at 80:04 to lift the UC San Diego women’s soccer team to a 1-0 win over Cal Poly Pomona at Kellogg Field on Friday night.
The result keeps alive UCSD’s hopes of a 14th consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championship berth. A victory over Cal State L.A. at home this Sunday, Nov. 3, would put the Tritons in Turlock next week as the defending CCAA champions and record eight-time winners. Kickoff on Senior Day is slated for approximately 2 p.m. after three seniors are recognized.
“This sets up as a one-game season Sunday as far as the CCAA tournament is concerned,” offered longtime UCSD head coach Brian McManus. “There was a lot of pressure on us tonight. A loss, and the season could have been over.”
With a second successive shutout triumph when needed most, UCSD improved to 7-5-5 overall and 6-4-5 in the CCAA. The Tritons are unbeaten over their last four at 2-0-2. Cal Poly Pomona dropped to 6-6-5 overall and 4-6-5 in league play.
Heading into the game, UCSD sat alone in third in the CCAA South Division, seven points behind Cal State San Bernardino and four back of Cal State L.A. after both of those sides had already won their matches. A loss would have eliminated the Tritons from CCAA tourney contention. They have never missed an installment since joining the conference for the 2000 season.
Though CSUSB’s win meant that UCSD could not contend for a third straight CCAA South Division crown and 12th in 14 years, Yasutake’s goal brought the Tritons back to within a point of the Golden Eagles, Sunday’s opponent.
“We worked hard defensively,” said McManus. “(CPP) had a couple of chances in the first half, and Kelcie (Brodsky) made one huge save. At halftime, we talked about taking shots whenever we got into range, and Michelle (Yasutake) hit a first-timer with her right foot that the (goalkeeper) got caught on and she punched it into the roof of the net. We did what we had to do. Take advantage of an opportunity.”
Cal Poly Pomona registered the first eight shots of the match over the first 25 minutes, with four of them necessitating saves by Triton goalkeeper Kelcie Brodsky. Three attempts came in a 51-second flurry following a Bronco corner kick at exactly the 13-minute mark, as Nicole Killigrew’s header was blocked, followed by back-to-back stops by Brodsky on Melissa Garcia and Hailey James.
Junior winger Kylene Hill finally notched UCSD’s first effort of the night, going wide to the right in the 26th minute.
CPP held a commanding 10-1 advantage in shots heading into the halftime break, though the match remained scoreless.
Hill accounted for UCSD’s first attempt on target as well, her shot saved by Bronco goalkeeper Alex Abbott in the 62nd minute. Just over two minutes later, junior Casey Parisi was also denied by Abbott.
Just as the match headed into the final 10 minutes of regulation, Yasutake received the ball out on the left side, a new area for her. In actuality, the Pleasant Hill product had started at left back for the first time in her career in the absence of freshman teammate Kristen Sampietro, after 23 starts at right back in 2012 and 15 at center back so far in 2013.
After having her initial try at a cross bounce back out to her, Yasutake took a touch onto her right peg and had a go from around 25 yards out, the ball finding its way in underneath the crossbar despite Abbott’s punch attempt.
After Yasutake’s heroics, CPP created a pair of chances within a 28-second span in the 83rd minute, but James had her shot blocked before Alison Sauve’s follow-up was cleared out of danger by the Triton defense.
The final shot chart was decidedly in favor of the Broncos, 18-5, but the Tritons pushed the all-important one across. Sauve and Hill led their respective teams with six and three shots, respectively.
Brodsky finished the match with five saves, picking up her fifth shutout of the year and 14th of her career. Fellow sophomore Abbott had three stops.
“Our record against the top teams in the region puts us in position to make the NCAA playoffs, but we can’t rely on that,” concluded McManus. “We’re not going to sit back. We want to win Sunday, win the CCAA tournament and go from there.”
Triton Notes: UCSD leads the all-time series, 33-10-4 ... The teams played to a 2-2 draw in La Jolla in this season’s prior meeting on Oct. 20 ... Before that, the Tritons had swept the home-and-home set in each of the past four years ... UCSD has returned victorious from five straight trips to Pomona, outscoring CPP, 12-1, since a 2-0 defeat there on Nov. 2, 2008 ... Senior tri-captain Rachel Leslie (Santee/West Hills HS) normally a central midfielder, started at center back for just the second time in her career and second time over the last three matches ... UCSD has posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time in 2013 and first time since Sept. 7 and Sept. 9, 2012.