No. 17 UC San Diego Clinches Postseason Return, Then Edges Stanislaus State for Third Straight Win, 2-1
TURLOCK, Calif. - The No. 17 University of California San Diego men's soccer team locked up a postseason berth, and then proceeded to edge Stanislaus State, 2-1, in a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) contest Thursday evening at Warrior Stadium.
With a third successive victory, all by one-goal margins, UC San Diego improved to 13-2-2 overall and 7-2-2 in the CCAA. The Tritons began the day in sixth, and despite temporarily moving up to fourth at the final whistle, slipped back into sixth following late results. They are equal on 23 points apiece with San Francisco State, but the Gators, whose regular season is done, hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Stanislaus State dropped to 6-10 overall and 2-9 in league play.
About midway through the first half, UC San Diego punched its ticket to the CCAA Tournament for a program-best sixth consecutive season, as Humboldt State's 2-1 home win over Cal State Monterey Bay went final after an 87th-minute decider from Isaiah Dairo. The Otters needed a victory there to stay alive in the race.
Cal State LA's 4-0 home decision over preseason favorite Cal Poly Pomona eliminated UC San Diego from first-round bye contention as a top-two seed, so the Tritons are thus assured of playing on Tuesday, Oct. 30. That contest could be on the road or at home, pending Saturday's final day of the regular season. A win in Chico would mean a Tuesday tilt at home, where UC San Diego is 11-0-1 this campaign.
The Tritons almost scored within the first five minutes, as reigning national and conference Player of the Week Brett Jones cut in on the right side and cleverly flipped a pass over the top, for senior winger Christian Cordell to attempt a volley on, only for the ball to get deflected over the goal by a defender for a corner kick.
A final flurry over the last minute-plus saw Jonathan Stoop retrieve a loose ball near the top of the penalty area, only for his right-footed, low shot to be saved by the Warrior goalkeeper. Around three ensuing corner kicks by redshirt junior winger Andy Sartor came a flying overhead kick attempt by Max Gonda that was blocked.
In the 52nd minute, some nice play up the middle by Hunter Fields resulted in the ball getting to fellow sophomore Jonathan Sabouri (Carlsbad/San Dieguito HS Academy). His cross from the left side was headed by Stoop, but over the top.
Less than three minutes later, it was 1-0. The Tritons earned a free kick on the right flank. Sabouri sent it toward the edge of the six-yard box on the right side, and senior winger Kiefer Cooksey put his glancing header into the back of the net. It was Cooksey's first goal of 2018 and third as a Triton, and Sabouri's third assist.
Jones nearly made it 2-0 in the 65th, putting a good right foot on a right-sided cross from the right diagonal, but that effort was blocked away by a defender.
Sartor doubled the advantage with the first road goal of his college career, in the 75th minute. Stoop gathered the ball off the head of a defender in his own half, and played it forward. The Northern California product from Los Altos dribbled ahead, rounded an opponent into the penalty area, and with a second Warrior closing in, shot right-footed from a tight angle on the right diagonal, low into the far netting. The strike gave Sartor four goals on the year, to share the team lead with Sabouri.
That had looked to have sealed it, up until an 86th-minute tally from the home side made for a nervous four-plus final minutes. Javier Ceballos latched onto a long pass over the top by Arturo Meza-Santiago, and hit the target from inside the 18-yard box for his fifth. UC San Diego managed to hang on, with no further shots taken.
Sophomore goalkeeper Pedro Enciso (Vista/Rancho Buena Vista HS) finished with zero saves. Junior Justin Motzkus had one stop for the Warriors.
The Tritons led 8-7 in shots and 12-5 in corner kicks, including 8-1 over the first 45 minutes. The 12 corner attempts were one shy of matching their season high.
"It was a great performance by the team," said 11th-year UC San Diego head coach Jon Pascale. "Defensively, we were strong, and limited Stanislaus to just a handful of opportunities. We got two great goals from Kiefer and Andy, and were able to pull out a result. We're really excited to clinch a spot in the playoffs, and hopefully we can keep this good form going."
UC San Diego stays in Northern California to conclude the regular season this Saturday, Oct. 27, against the rival Chico State Wildcats. Kickoff on Senior Day at University Soccer Stadium is slated for 2 p.m., after the women's game.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 16-5-4, and has won the last three meetings by an aggregate score of 8-2 ... The Tritons have won three in a row over the Warriors in Turlock ... Redshirt sophomore Hunter Fields earned his first start of the season and fourth of his college days, at right back in place of redshirt senior captain Jeff Powers, who was suspended for the match due to the red card he received in last Sunday's home win over Cal State Dominguez Hills ... Powers will return to the field in Chico on Saturday ... Also in Powers' absence, junior center back Kelvin Uribe captained the side ... With Fields starting on defense, second-year Triton freshman Max Gonda saw his first action since Sept. 10, entering off the bench on the left wing in the 36th minute ... It marked just the fifth appearance for Gonda, and his first collegiate road activity ... Jonathan Sabouri's assist was the sixth of his career ... Andy Sartor's goal was his first since Sept. 28 ... Sartor's goal proved to be his second career game-winner, both coming this year.
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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