LA JOLLA, Calif. - An own goal 4:11 into overtime kept the University of California San Diego men's soccer team alive in the NCAA Division II Championship, as the Tritons advanced past Cal Poly Pomona, 1-0, Friday night at Triton Soccer Stadium, and earned the first West Region crown in the program's Division II history.
Approaching the midway point of the first extra period, redshirt sophomore right back Jeff Powers played junior winger Zachary Lagotta (San Diego/Cathedral Catholic HS) down his right flank. Lagotta got near the end line and served in a dangerous cross. Senior teammate Riley Harbour was crashing the six-yard box, as were Bronco defenders Rubik Zazian and William Johnson Des Bordes. The ball was out of the reach of junior CPP goalkeeper Jason Trejos, and looked like it came off of Zazian's foot on the ground and bounded into the left side of the netting.
With a fifth straight victory, UC San Diego improved to 18-2-2 on the year, including 13-1-1 over its last 15, and an unbeaten 11-0-1 in La Jolla. The Tritons were already double champions of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), as victors of first-ever regular-season and tournament titles in the league they joined in 2000. They are now first-time Division II West Region champions as well, in their fourth tournament appearance since moving up from Division III, also in 2000. UCSD was a three-time Division III national champion in 1988, 1991 and 1993. Several members of those teams were among the 703 spectators on hand for the primetime affair.
Cal Poly Pomona, the 2015 West champion and national runner-up, completed its 2016 campaign at 13-6-3.
The match pitted fierce CCAA rivals who were ranked No. 3 and No. 7, respectively, in the nation in team goals-against average, and true to that billing, the game was scoreless after 90 minutes.
That's not to say that neither side had chances, however, as for a second straight NCAA postseason contest in front of the home crowd, fifth-year starting goalkeeper Cameron McElfresh showed why he was the CCAA Defensive Player of the Year. He finished with five critical saves for his 13th individual clean sheet of 2016.
Friday's triumph also means one more home date for UC San Diego, as it will next take on No. 11 Midwestern State of Wichita Falls, Texas, in a national quarterfinal this Sunday, Nov. 20. Kickoff at Triton Soccer Stadium is set for 12 p.m. The winner will move on to the national semifinals in Kansas City, Mo. MSU held off No. 7 St. Edward's, 3-2, for the South Central Region title earlier Friday in La Jolla.
In the 36th minute, solid combination play from Nick Palano and Christian Cordell led to a tough shot by Harbour from the right diagonal that Trejos saved up high around his chest. Moments later, CPP's leading scorer, junior Sergi Monso out of Barcelona, Spain, went just wide to the left with his free-kick attempt from right outside the penalty box.
The second half saw a 61st-minute effort from Monso that McElfresh struggled with but kept out. Jose Garcia had played Monso into a threatening position from right to left, with Monso maneuvering his body to strike a right-footed curly to the far post. With 19 minutes to go, Monso crossed from right to left, and Luis Najera, Jr., was denied by the Triton goalie.
UCSD almost won it earlier, as with under five minutes to go, Uly de la Cal's right-sided cross just whizzed over the head of a leaping Harbour at the far post.
Trejos wound up with six saves for CPP, which held a narrow 16-15 edge in shots.
Triton Notes: UCSD is 2-1-3 over its four NCAA Championship appearances, including 2-0-1 at home and 1-0 against Cal Poly Pomona ... The Tritons have posted 10 consecutive shutouts at home and have not conceded in La Jolla in 1005:26 ... The 18 wins are the Tritons' most since going 21-2-1 during their last Division III national-title season in 1993 ... UCSD remains unbeaten at 5-0-2 in overtime contests in 2016, having drawn 12 consecutive overtime games since a double-overtime 1-0 home loss to Azusa Pacific on Sept. 20, 2014 ... The own goal was the Tritons' first of the season, either scored or conceded ... UCSD's team goals-against average was lowered to 0.44, back up from No. 3 to No. 2 nationally in Division II.