LA JOLLA, Calif. - Third-ranked UC San Diego got two great goals in the second half and rallied to beat No. 21 Seattle Pacific University, 2-1, in the 2013 season opener between perennial NCAA Division II West Region women’s soccer powers Thursday night at Triton Soccer Stadium.
After a largely-dismal first half for UCSD that saw the visiting Falcons hold an 11-2 shot advantage and produce a 1-0 lead, the tables turned completely.
Redshirt freshman winger Kiera Bocchino knotted the game within three minutes of the restart as Rachel Leslie (Santee/West Hills HS), the lone senior on UCSD’s roster, lobbed a pass from right to left over the top of the SPU defensive line. Bocchino beat the offside trap and volleyed her shot into the right side for her first college goal.
With just under 11 minutes remaining in regulation, it was junior All-American Cassie Callahan’s (Coronado/Coronado HS) turn to conjure the exquisite as she got to a loose ball outside of the penalty area and sent a looping shot that was always destined for the upper left corner.
Though SPU came awfully close to sending the game into overtime when senior defender Josie Graybeal’s header glanced off the crossbar and back behind the goal in the 87th minute, UCSD held on.
The contest was a rematch of last November’s NCAA Division II Championship second-round tilt between the sides, when the Tritons pulled out a 2-1 double-overtime victory on their way to the West Region title and a national runner-up showing. Since then, UCSD lost 10 seniors, including seven starters, to graduation. SPU, on the other hand, kicking off the new campaign in the exact location that the prior one had ended, had 10 starters returning.
Despite that discrepancy and a dominant first-half performance by the visitors, it was UCSD head coach Brian McManus’ squad that came away with a huge result with significant postseason implications, its label as season opener notwithstanding.
Sophomore Kelcie Brodsky made eight saves in the Triton goal, while counterpart Natalie Harold was credited with just a single stop. The final shots tally was 20-7 in Seattle Pacific’s favor.
The SPU goal came from sophomore forward Laura Moore in the ninth minute, with the assist going to Alexa Diaz. Diaz rolled a pass from right to left along the ground, with Moore flicking her low shot into the left side of Brodsky’s net.
Continuing a challenging start to the new season, UCSD welcomes in No. 12 Western Washington for a 7 p.m. match this Saturday night at Triton Soccer Stadium. UCSD also ended the Vikings’ 2012 postseason run, in an NCAA third-round meeting in Denver, Colo., 2-1 in overtime. The rematch will follow the home opener of the Triton men’s team at 4:30 p.m. against crosstown rival Point Loma.
Triton Notes: UCSD is now 5-2 all-time against Seattle Pacific, including a perfect 3-0 in La Jolla ... The Tritons have defeated SPU in four straight meetings ... UCSD remained undefeated in season openers in the Division II era, now at 13-0-1 ... Leslie’s assist on the equalizer was the second of her career ... UCSD had five newcomers in the starting lineup, with true freshmen Alexis Leon, Jamie Benedetto, Kristen Sampietro and Kylee Southwell joining Bocchino ... True freshmen Jessica Dang, Marissa Scheid, Maxia Espino (Chula Vista/Hilltop HS) and Devon Roncoroni (San Diego/Bonita Vista HS), as well as junior college transfer Kiley Leshin, also made their Triton debuts off the bench ... Redshirt sophomore defender Michelle Yasutake was in the lineup at center back for the first time in her career after starting 23 times at right back a year ago ... Junior winger Kylene Hill drew her third career start and played a career-high 72 minutes ... Sophomore Maile Nilsson (San Diego/The Preuss School UCSD) matched her career high with 39 minutes in a reserve role.