No. 17 Tritons in Northern California in Search of Sixth Consecutive Postseason Berth
TRITONS ON THE ROAD LOOKING TO EARN CCAA TOURNEY RETURN
The No. 17 University of California San Diego men's soccer team is in Northern California to wrap up the 2018 regular season with two more California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) games. The sixth-place Tritons (12-2-2, 6-2-2 CCAA) still occupy the final CCAA Tournament position, but have yet to clinch a program-best sixth consecutive berth. They are at 10th-place Stanislaus State (6-9, 2-8 CCAA) on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 4:30 p.m., and then at fourth-place rival Chico State (10-4-1, 7-3 CCAA) on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 2 p.m. A solitary point from either contest is all that UC San Diego needs to fend off seventh-place Cal State Monterey Bay (7-7, 5-5 CCAA), with the Tritons holding that head-to-head tiebreaker, but they can certainly move up the table. Both matches this week are part of doubleheaders with the No. 6 UC San Diego women, as the lead-in on Thursday and capper on Saturday.
Once again, much is on the line this week for the Tritons. Two losses could conceivably end their season altogether. A draw in either game, would guarantee a postseason game, but UC San Diego is in the running to host a CCAA Tournament first-round match on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and currently in the No. 3 position in the official NCAA Division II West Region poll, could still host NCAA Championship action as well the following week. The Tritons are mathematically eliminated from the CCAA regular-season title race. They are able to vie for a first-round bye in the CCAA tourney and go directly into the semifinal round as the hosts on Friday, Nov. 2, but would need two wins this week, and some help.
TRITON SOCCER MATCHDAY
Once again in 2018, all regular-season home matches at Triton Soccer Stadium are free to attend. Parking permits are required, however, on weeknights on the UC San Diego campus. Parking permits can be purchased at machines situated at corners of either of the nearest parking lots, which are behind the spectator stand, and the Hopkins Parking Structure adjacent to RIMAC. Parking is free on Saturday and Sunday. By University policy, pets are not allowed at Triton Soccer Stadium, with the exception of service animals.
All UC San Diego home games in 2018 feature a live pay-per-view video stream on UCSDtritons.tv. The cost is $5.99 for a 24-hour window, meaning one fee for doubleheaders, and $34.99 for the entire 2018-19 academic year, to include other Triton athletics teams. Broadcasts are in high definition and can be viewed from smartphones and tablets alongside desktop and laptop computers. Seth Smith (@ItsSethESmith) handles the play-by-play duties. Events are archived. There is a free video stream available for both road contests this week, with audio commentary on Thursday in Turlock only. Stanislaus State also offers a pay-per-view option in high definition. All games have live stats. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page, or by clicking on the links above. Starting lineups, live in-game updates and other news and notes can be found by following Triton Soccer all season long on the UC San Diego Athletics Twitter handle (@UCSDtritons). You can also check out in-match Instagram stories during home dates on the UC San Diego Athletics account (@ucsdtritons). Finally, check out the CCAA live scoreboard here to keep up on results around the league.
Wednesday marked the unveiling of the second official NCAA regional polls, with UC San Diego swapping places with Cal State LA, which it defeated at home last Friday in a key matchup, and moving up into third. The Tritons remain behind undefeated and top-ranked Simon Fraser, and Azusa Pacific. They are ahead of CSULA, Cal Poly Pomona, Fresno Pacific, San Francisco State and Saturday's opponent, Chico State. The top six teams in the final edition of those rankings, qualify for the NCAA Championship. The third release is set for next Wednesday, Oct. 31. The 38-team NCAA field will be unveiled on Monday, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m. PT, live on NCAA.com. For the second straight year, there are automatic qualifiers for the men's tournament, including all three West Region conferences in the CCAA, Great Northwest Athletic Conference and Pacific West Conference. The CCAA's automatic qualifier will be the tournament champion. The other two leagues do not have tourneys.
UC SAN DIEGO IN THE UNITED SOCCER COACHES POLL
• Oct. 23: 17 (3rd in West)
• Oct. 16: 24 (4th in West)
• Oct. 9: 16 (3rd in West)
• Oct. 2: 9 (2nd in West)
• Sept. 25: 13 (3rd in West)
• Sept. 18: 23 (4th in West)
• Sept. 11: 14 (2nd in West)
• Sept. 4: RV (4th in West)
• Preseason: NR
A LOOK BACK AT LAST WEEK
UC San Diego came up with a massive sweep of its final home weekend, handing then-ninth-ranked Cal State LA its first league defeat, 1-0, in front of a season-high 716 spectators on Homecoming Friday, before getting past Cal State Dominguez Hills in overtime Sunday, 2-1. The Tritons' sophomore starting forward tandem of Brett Jones and Jonathan Sabouri teamed up on the 85th-minute decider against the Golden Eagles, as Jones pounced on a failed clearance, got to the end line on the right side, and provided a right-footed cross on the ground that Sabouri knocked in with his left foot after a terrific run inside the six-yard box. A third sophomore, Pedro Enciso, had five saves for the clean sheet. On Senior Day, UC San Diego lost senior captain Jeff Powers to an unfortunate red card in the 37th minute, and then immediately surrendered the equalizer from the ensuing free kick, after senior winger Christian Cordell had headed in Jon Veigar Kristjánsson's right-sided corner kick for an early seventh-minute opener. The Tritons did not fold, and in fact did not look like they were playing a man down for very much of the next hour, before Jones finally produced the winner with 1:23 left in the first overtime. He split two defenders into the penalty area after gathering the ball on the left diagonal, and after his initial shot attempt was blocked by a defender, tucked home the rebound.
BRETT JONES SWEEPS WEEKLY HONORS
On Tuesday, sophomore forward Brett Jones was named both the United Soccer Coaches Division II National and CCAA Player of the Week, for the first time in his career. That was after the Mission Viejo native assisted on strike partner Jonathan Sabouri's 85th-minute winner to down then-ninth-ranked Cal State LA on Friday night, and himself scored the short-handed, overtime decider to defeat Cal State Dominguez Hills on Sunday. Jones is the second player in program history to earn the national award, the other being former All-American goalkeeper Cameron McElfresh on Oct. 4, 2016.
UC San Diego is 74-22-18 (.728) at Triton Soccer Stadium under Jon Pascale, and 30-2-5 (.878) over its last 37 in La Jolla since a 2-1 loss to Stanislaus State on Sept. 27, 2015. The Tritons had an 18-match home unbeaten streak that stretched out over nearly two full calendar years, ended by Chico State, 2-0, on Sept. 15, 2017. They wound up 5-2-2 at home a year ago, after finishing an unbeaten 12-0-1 there in 2016 and 5-1-2 inside the friendly confines in 2015. Last weekend's sweep meant that UC San Diego wrapped up the 2018 regular-season home schedule undefeated again at 11-0-1.
UC San Diego has developed a reputation under head coach Jon Pascale of being a strong defensive unit, and has ranked in the top 17 nationally in the NCAA Division II in team goals-against average in five out of the last six seasons. The Tritons are currently 15th (0.713). They remain fifth in the West Region and fourth in the CCAA. UC San Diego was 17th (0.76) a year ago, allowing 14 goals in all after 248:31 of shutout soccer for openers. It led the CCAA and was second in the West Region. The team surrendered 13 goals over 24 matches in 2016 for a 0.52 GAA, which ranked fourth in the country. Only eight came from the run of play, with four penalties and one free kick. The Tritons posted a Division II-era program-record 14 clean sheets. The team's longest shutout stretch that year was 513:54 through four-plus games, with two more of 356:51 and 353:12. UC San Diego boasted one of the top seven defenses in Division II for three straight seasons between 2012-14, but fell back to the 48th spot in 2015 (1.09). It led the country in team GAA in 2012 with a then-CCAA-record mark of 0.44, before finishing fourth in 2013 (0.52) and seventh in 2014 (0.65).
UC San Diego's 9-0-1 overall record out of the gate marked the Tritons' best 10-game start under 11th-year head coach Jon Pascale, and their best in three decades, since the 1988 squad also began the season at 9-0-1. That team went on to the school's first of three national championships, posting a program-best mark of 23-0-2.
UC San Diego is 12-0-21 in overtime contests since its last such loss in 2014. Eight of its 17 games in 2017 went into overtime, with dramatic road wins at Azusa Pacific and Cal State San Marcos, and five double-overtime draws, around a thrilling home decision over CCAA rival Cal Poly Pomona on Sept. 29. The Tritons were an unbeaten 3-0-5 in such games last year, and have played six overtime contests in 2018, including three straight from Sept. 16-23, going 4-0-2. The four wins, all at home, were 1-0 over Concordia Irvine (9/6), 3-2 against city rival Cal State San Marcos (9/21), 1-0 in double overtime versus Occidental (9/23), and 2-1 on Senior Day against Cal State Dominguez Hills (10/21). The decider against Concordia came off the right foot of fifth-year senior Christian Cordell with a single tick left in the first session, officially at 99:59. Watch the incredible sequence that began with seven seconds remaining on the clock, here. Also view Jonathan Stoop's CSUSM winner here, Andy Sartor's decider against Oxy here, and Brett Jones' goal to beat the Toros here.
CCAA PLAYER OF THE WEEK NOD FOR BLOOM
Nathaniel Bloom was named on Oct. 2 as the CCAA Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 24-30. Bloom tallied both game-winning goals as UC San Diego swept a home weekend. Having last scored as a true freshman on Sept. 8, 2015, Bloom headed in the 42nd-minute opener against Sonoma State on Sept. 28, in a 2-0 shutout. He then provided another late first-half goal two days later against Humboldt State to make it 2-0, in what ended as a 3-1 decision. The times of the goals were 41:37 and 41:04. Bloom produced those goals on his only two shot attempts for the weekend. He is the first UC San Diego men's soccer player to earn CCAA Player of the Week distinction since another senior, Christian Cordell, picked up the 2016 season's final award on Nov. 1, 2016, after his historic 89th-minute goal at Cal Poly Pomona to give the Tritons their first CCAA regular-season title in program history.
Fifth-year senior Matt Merrill's first collegiate goal was a sight to behold, serving as the dramatic, 80th-minute winner in a come-from-behind, 2-1 home decision over Cal State Monterey Bay in the CCAA opener on Sept. 14. The Mission Viejo product one-timed sophomore forward Brett Jones' left-sided corner kick into the upper right corner, off the crossbar and in, with his right foot from outside of 25 yards. Click here to view the stunner.
Three Triton newcomers have tallied the first goal of their collegiate careers, in sophomore playmaker Jón Veigar Kristjánsson, second-year freshman winger Max Gonda and true freshman forward Nick Cirrito. Kristjánsson tallied the opener against Saint Martin's (9/10), Gonda the lone winner in his college debut in the opener with Biola (8/30), and Cirrito the opener against Azusa Pacific (9/1). Cirrito, out of Diamond Bar, has since added his first career winner versus SMU. Kristjánsson and junior left back Stjepan Kilic, both Division I transfers, made their UC San Diego debuts as starters in the opener, with junior college transfer Matt Davis coming off the bench. Cirrito, Gonda, true freshman center back Noah Sonenstein and redshirt freshman defenders Darragh Buckley and Oliver Nelson have all made their first college appearances.
The Tritons did not surrender a first-half goal in the first 11 games of 2018, until San Francisco State grabbed a pair on Oct. 7 en route to a 3-1 home win ... Both of sophomore forward Brett Jones' collegiate braces (two-goal games) have come against crosstown rival CSUSM ... Redshirt junior winger Andy Sartor rescued UC San Diego through this left-footed blast from just inside 25 yards, with 5:27 remaining in the second overtime session to dispatch Occidental (9/23) ... UC San Diego is 13-3-3 in season openers in the Division II era (since 2000) following a 1-0 shutout over Biola on Aug. 30, and is an unbeaten 4-0-2 over its last six lid-lifters ... The Tritons are 10-7-2 in CCAA openers, having snapped a two-match losing skid (1-0 at CSUSM in 2016 and 2-0 vs. Chico State in 2017), with a 2-1 triumph vs. Cal State Monterey Bay on Sept. 14 ... UC San Diego was picked to finish third in the 2018 CCAA race, collecting 125 points and one of the 13 first-place votes ... Defending West Region champion and 2017 national semifinalist Cal Poly Pomona is the favorite with 129 points and four first-place votes, with Cal State LA, the 2017 CCAA Tournament champion in La Jolla, second, just three points behind with one more first-place nod than CPP.
Among 30 players on the 2018 roster are 18 returners and 12 newcomers, eight of them true freshmen ... All but two, new transfers Stjepan Kilic (Coppell, Texas) and Jón Veigar Kristjánsson (Kópavogur, Iceland), are California natives ... The five seniors are Nathaniel Bloom, Kiefer Cooksey, Christian Cordell, Matt Merrill and Jeff Powers, with Andy Sartor a redshirt junior in his fourth year ... Cordell (international business), Merrill (international business) and Powers (communication) are fifth-year seniors who will have completed their UC San Diego degrees at the conclusion of the fall quarter ... There are five local products in Bloom (Encinitas/San Dieguito HS Academy), and second-year Tritons Jonathan Sabouri (Carlsbad/San Dieguito HS Academy), Jordan Karam (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS), Oliver Nelson (Escondido/Escondido HS) and Pedro Enciso (Vista/Rancho Buena Vista HS) ... Redshirt freshman Darragh Buckley is the younger brother of former Triton Padraig Buckley (2010-13).
CCAA TOURNAMENT REMAINS IN LA JOLLA
UC San Diego is the proud host of the 2018 CCAA Tournament semifinals and finals for the second consecutive year and fifth time in all. Two men's and two women's semifinals will be contested at Triton Soccer Stadium on Friday, Nov. 2, with the two finals set for Sunday, Nov. 4. Game times on Friday are 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., just like last year, though the exact order of games is still yet to be finalized. Sunday's game times are to be determined, but appear to be 11 or 11:30 a.m. for the first final, and 2 p.m. for the second. First-round matchups take place on the campuses of the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds on Tuesday, Oct. 30. In all four previous instances that UC San Diego has served as host, in 2001, 2006, 2008 and 2017, the Triton men have not been present in the semifinal round. For just the second time, the CCAA men's champion will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.
CCAA FORMAT UNCHANGED
For the fifth year in a row, the CCAA slate consists of a single round robin, with all teams meeting once for 12 matches total, and the top six sides (based on most points; three points for a league win, one for a tie) in the final regular-season standings qualifying for the 2018 CCAA Tournament.
2018 SEASON OUTLOOK
Jon Pascale, the three-time CCAA Coach of the Year, is in his 11th season at the helm. Fifth-year seniors Christian Cordell, Matt Merrill and Jeff Powers return, and are the projected starters on the right side of midfield, holding central midfield, and right back, respectively. Next to Powers across the back line are likely to be redshirt freshman Oliver Nelson or true freshman Noah Sonenstein at one center back spot, junior Kelvin Uribe at the other, and junior newcomer Stjepan Kilic, a transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson, as the left back. Another Division I transfer, Icelandic sophomore Jón Veigar Kristjánsson from USC Upstate, is the expected partner to Merrill in central midfield. Redshirt junior Andy Sartor, who sat out last season through injury, could play opposite Cordell. Much will be expected in their sophomore go-arounds from the speedy strike tandem of Brett Jones and Jonathan Sabouri (Carlsbad/San Dieguito HS Academy). Sophomore Pedro Enciso (Vista/Rancho Buena Vista HS) is the incumbent between the posts. Veterans in the mix include seniors Nathaniel Bloom (Encinitas/San Dieguito HS Academy) and Kiefer Cooksey, and junior Jonathan Stoop. Powers, Sabouri and Uribe all picked up All-CCAA honorable mentions last fall.
UC San Diego looks to bounce back from a peculiar 2017 season that saw several tough, dramatic victories and two solitary losses (10-2-5, 7-1-3 CCAA), only for it to be cut abruptly short ahead of the CCAA Tournament semifinals the Tritons were themselves hosting. The Tritons had wound up third in the final league table. However, Cal State Dominguez Hills was forced to vacate its regular-season title due to uncovered infractions, with UC San Diego moving up to second through adjustments made following the application of nullification penalties by the CCAA. All that was coming off the most successful season of the program's Division II era in 2016, as the treble winner of the CCAA regular-season, CCAA Tournament and West Region championships, each for the first time. The Tritons have made five successive postseason appearances in the form of the CCAA Tournament, with NCAA Championship berths in 2013, 2014 and 2016. UC San Diego went an unbeaten 5-0-3 away from home in 2017.
HEAD COACH JON PASCALE
Jon Pascale, a three-time CCAA Coach of the Year (2012, 2013, 2016), has posted a 115-53-40 (.649) overall record to date in his 11th year in charge of the UC San Diego men's soccer program. He is 78-42-29 (.621) in arguably the toughest NCAA Division II conference in the nation, the CCAA. The Tritons have earned five successive berths in the CCAA Tournament, with trips to the NCAA Championship in 2013, 2014 and 2016. They have posted eight straight campaigns with an overall record of .500 or better, and eight winning seasons out of Pascale's 10. In 2016, he guided the Tritons to their very first CCAA regular-season, CCAA Tournament and Division II West Region titles, having joined in 2000. A 1-0 home victory over Sonoma State on Sept. 29, 2013, gave Pascale career win No. 50, while a 2-0 triumph at Stanislaus State in the very next match on Oct. 4 marked his 100th contest at the Triton helm. He directed his first postseason tilt on Nov. 8, 2013, in Turlock, a come-from-behind, 2-1 overtime win over Chico State in a CCAA semifinal. He made his NCAA tourney debut as a head coach on Nov. 16, 2013, in La Jolla. A 2-0 home decision over Cal State East Bay on Oct. 12, 2014, meant CCAA win No. 50 for Pascale, who coached his 100th CCAA tilt at Cal State Monterey Bay five days later. The 2-0 decision versus Western Washington on Nov. 13, 2016, meant Pascale's first NCAA tournament win as a head coach. The 1-0 home victory over Cal State San Marcos last Oct. 4 was career win No. 100. The 1-0 overtime win at home over Occidental on Sept. 25 marked Pascale's 200th game at the helm.
ABOUT THE WARRIORS
Stanislaus State (6-9, 2-8 CCAA) was picked to place ninth in the preseason, and is currently in 10th. The Warriors are 3-4 at home in 2018, and are coming off back-to-back shutout losses last week, 1-0 at home against Chico State on Wednesday, Oct. 17, and 4-0 at San Francisco State on Friday afternoon. They had won three straight prior to that, all in Turlock, by an aggregate score of 10-1. Dana Taylor is in his 10th season in charge.
UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 15-5-4, with a comprehensive 4-0 home victory a year ago, all four scores coming within 16:30 during the first half. That followed a come-from-behind, 2-1 overtime victory in Turlock on Oct. 21, 2016, on goals by Christian Cordell (65:39) and Kuba Waligorski (93:12). On Sept. 27, 2015, Stan State handed the Tritons a rare home loss, 2-1, scoring twice in a span of 1:51 late to overturn a 1-0 halftime deficit. In 2014, the Warriors knocked UC San Diego out of the CCAA Tournament in the first round, outlasting the Tritons in a penalty-kick tiebreaker, 5-4, after a scoreless deadlock through 110 minutes of play in La Jolla. The teams drew 1-1 in the 2014 regular-season matchup, also in La Jolla. In 2013, the Tritons achieved their first road win over the Warriors in Turlock, 2-0, in their fourth try there of the Jon Pascale era after a trio of one-goal defeats. The 2012 meeting in La Jolla saw Elan Gefen turn in the rebound from a Kian Malek shot that was saved, for the lone score of the night in the 55th minute.
ABOUT THE WILDCATS
Chico State (10-4-1, 7-3 CCAA) was picked to place fourth in the CCAA table, and is currently tied for fourth. The Wildcats, like the Tritons, have a top-15 defense nationally, now eighth with a 0.519 team goals-against average. Their four-match win streak, all via shutout, was snapped in overtime at San Francisco State last Sunday afternoon, 1-0. Senior striker Jeremiah Egujie, a second-year transfer from Arizona Western College and native of Nigeria, leads the team with eight goals, which is tied for second in the CCAA. He paces the league with his four game-winners. Chico State is 6-2 at home in 2018, and hosts Cal State San Marcos on Thursday night before taking on the Tritons on Senior Day. Felipe Restrepo is in his 11th season in charge.
UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 12-7-4, though it dropped the most recent matchup, 2-0 in La Jolla in both teams' 2017 CCAA opener. The Tritons came away with a 2-0 home triumph on Sept. 25, 2016, through a Sam Palano brace. The sides played to a 1-1 draw in Chico in 2015, a result that proved critical to the Tritons earning a third successive CCAA Tournament berth, at the expense of the Wildcats. Riley Harbour and Omar Nuño traded goals in that one. UC San Diego posted a 1-0 win in Chico on Oct. 5, 2014, through an unassisted Brandon Bauman strike at 84:52. The rivals split their two regular-season meetings in 2013, with each winning 1-0 on the road. Chico State's victory came in overtime to snap a seven-match win streak for the Tritons, ranked sixth at the time. UC San Diego had earlier won in the 14th-ranked Wildcats' home opener on Taylor Wirth's first collegiate goal in the 28th minute. The teams then faced off twice in the postseason. In the semifinals of the CCAA Tournament in Turlock, Malek Bashti's first career goal in overtime was the difference as UC San Diego rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to take it, 2-1. Finally in the second round of the NCAA Championship, in front of 985 fans in La Jolla, the sides played to a 1-1 draw before UC San Diego advanced via penalty-kick tiebreaker.
This 2018 season marks the UC San Diego men's soccer program's 30th anniversary of its very first NCAA Division III national championship in 1988, and 25th anniversary of its third and final crown in 1993. The 1988 team was back on campus to be recognized during UC San Diego Homecoming weekend, Oct. 19-21. All-time leading goal-scorer Greg Schwarz (1983-87) was inducted into the UC San Diego Athletics Hall of Fame that weekend as well, becoming the fourth member of the men's soccer program to be so honored, after Chris Romey (Class of 2014), Brian Siljander (2015) and legendary former head coach Derek Armstrong (2017).
On Nov. 27, 2017, UC San Diego was officially invited to become a member of the NCAA Division I Big West Conference. The Tritons will begin a four-year reclassification period starting in the fall of 2020. They will play a full Big West schedule that season and will be eligible for the NCAA Championship in men's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, and fencing. For the 2024-25 academic year, all sports will be eligible to compete in Big West and NCAA Division I championships. Read the full press release here.
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About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.
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For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Men's Soccer, follow on Instagram (@ucsdmenssoccer) and Facebook (UCSanDiegoMensSoccer).