Photo by: Frank Rebelo/Chico State Athletics
Fifth-year senior holding central midfielder Matt Merrill played 80 minutes in Chico on Tuesday night.

No. 20 Tritons Knocked Out of CCAA Tournament by Chico State in First Round, 2-0


CHICO, Calif. - The 20th-ranked University of California San Diego men's soccer team fell behind just over two minutes in and was beaten by Chico State, 2-0, in a first-round match of the 2018 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament at University Soccer Stadium on Tuesday night.

With a second straight loss following a three-game win streak, UC San Diego moved to 13-4-2 overall. The Tritons had entered the day with the most overall victories and highest national rank of any team in the CCAA, but leave Chico knowing that their season is possibly over. Chico State improves to 13-4-1 overall, and advances to face No. 2 seed Cal State LA in the first men's semifinal at 4:30 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 2, in La Jolla. UC San Diego is serving as host of the men's and women's semis and finals for the second year in a row.

The rivals had just faced off to conclude the regular season, also in Chico, on Saturday afternoon, with the 'Cats also coming away with a 2-0 win in that one.

UC San Diego will have to wait and see if its 19-game accomplishments are enough to warrant an at-large bid into the 38-team NCAA Championship field, when that announcement is made on Monday, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m. PT, live on

The home side struck only 2:21 into the game, the earliest goal UC San Diego has allowed this year. Senior forward Jeremiah Egujie, the Wildcats' leading goal-scorer with nine, carried the ball down the left flank and approaching the end line, produced a cross to the top of the six-yard box. Alex Fluitt hit the back of the net for his first collegiate tally. Egujie and Joshua Belda were both credited with assists.

The Tritons drew a foul in the right corner in the 19th minute, and a well-worked free kick put redshirt senior captain Jeff Powers in good position for a shot, but his right-footed attempt from the right diagonal, whizzed wide to the right.

At the break, Chico State held a 5-2 edge in shots and 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.

A flurry of three Brett Jones corner kicks in a 62-second span followed a dangerous shot by freshman strike partner Nick Cirrito in the 51st minute, off a right-sided cross, that was blocked out by a defender. Cirrito was making his first collegiate start in place of sophomore Jonathan Sabouri (Carlsbad/San Dieguito HS Academy), out with an injury suffered in Saturday's initial meeting.

Moments later, it unfortunately went to 2-0 in favor of Chico State, as junior defender Justin Bethke headed in a right-sided free kick from Fabian Roman. Bethke had nabbed the opening winner in Saturday's contest for his first goal of 2018.

The Tritons went on the attack straight away off the ensuing restart, but Jones' shot went right at senior goalkeeper Damion Lewis, named earlier Tuesday as the last CCAA Player of the Week of the 2018 season. Jones was the previous honoree.

Sophomore Pedro Enciso (Vista/Rancho Buena Vista HS) wound up making two saves for UC San Diego. Lewis, also the 2017 CCAA Defensive Player of the Year, had two stops as well for his 10th clean sheet of 2018 and 23rd of his career, tying Chico State's all-time record. It was a seventh straight shutout home win for the 'Cats.

The final shots tally on the night was even at 9-9. UC San Diego earned seven corner kicks to just three for Chico State, but was unable to turn any into a score.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego still leads the all-time series, 12-9-4, but has now dropped three straight meetings, all by an identical 2-0 score ... The Tritons were 2-0-1 over three visits to Chico, prior to Saturday's defeat ... UC San Diego did not allow a single first-half goal over the first 11 games this season, but surrendered eight over the last eight, including three in the first 20-plus minutes, over the last four days at Chico State ... The Tritons dropped to 2-4-1 away from home ... UC San Diego had not lost back-to-back games since Sept. 27 and Oct. 2, 2015.

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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