LA JOLLA, Calif. - On any given normal day, the University of California San Diego women’s soccer program's strike tandem of junior Katie O'Laughlin (Carlsbad/Pacific Ridge School) and sophomore Mary Reilly (Chula Vista/Hilltop HS) is a handful for the opponent.
On this particular Saturday afternoon at Triton Soccer Stadium, the duo was absolutely unstoppable, proving why they are arguably the best two forwards in the region, if not the nation. UC San Diego as a team came out fired up and focused for its final exhibition in front of the home crowd, which numbered 597, and it showed in the scoreline of a 4-2 victory as the second-seeded Tritons eliminated No. 6 seed Azusa Pacific in a second-round match of the 2016 NCAA Division II Championship.
With a 16th consecutive win, ninth-ranked UC San Diego moved to 19-2 on the year. APU ends its campaign at 12-4-4.
Reilly hit her third two-goal brace of the season, around strikes by O'Laughlin and a third local product in junior winger Jordyn McNutt (San Diego/University City HS) from the penalty spot, to propel UCSD into a highly-anticipated showdown for the West Region title against top-seeded Western Washington.
Seemingly on a collision course since they met in Bellingham, Wash., on Sept. 14 and Western took a 3-2 decision, the Tritons have earned another crack at Division II's No. 1-ranked team in the Vikings. WWU was a 2-0 home winner over league foe Central Washington in a match that ended about an hour after UCSD's.
UC San Diego and Western Washington are tentatively slated to meet in Golden, Colo., on the NCAA's rotation as the top remaining seed in the South Central Region hosts the second weekend against the West. Colorado Mines is that top remaining seed, the Orediggers surviving a penalty-kick tiebreaker at home against Dallas Baptist following a scoreless draw, also on Saturday. The exact venue, date and time of next week's activity will be forthcoming.
Just 9:07 into Saturday's second-round tilt, the Tritons were on top. McNutt found Reilly on the right, and she did the rest, rounding her defender before whipping a right-footed effort from outside the penalty box on that right diagonal, that left APU's Sarah Klinkenberg, the Pacific West Conference Goalkeeper of the Year, with no chance. The ball carried over the Cougar senior and landed in the left netting for Reilly's 12th goal and McNutt's league-best 12th assist on the year.
Eight minutes later, it was 2-0, this time with O'Laughlin the scorer. Junior right back Makenzie Brito lifted a deep pass from her side that senior co-captain Kiera Bocchino deftly knocked down for O'Laughlin, who made no mistake shooting from the right diagonal again inside the area, into the bottom left corner. The goal was her league- and West Region-leading 16th. Bocchino and Brito both gained assists.
The early onslaught continued in the 25th. UCSD won a penalty kick as the referee called hand ball on defender Mallory Walton off of a Reilly shot. McNutt stepped up and buried her try high to the left of Klinkenberg, and just like that it was 3-0.
To APU's credit, the PacWest champion took it to the Tritons over the last 10-15 minutes of the first half, and got its just reward in pulling one back in the 36th. Left back Lindsey Ryals crossed from the left, and Emilie Allum couldn't miss from right in front on the edge of the six-yard box. It was her fifth and Ryals' first helper.
It was Reilly again to curb any jitters coming out of the halftime interval, however, this time teaming up with her partner. O'Laughlin sent in Reilly with a great through ball on the ground toward the left. It appeared as though APU was really counting on an offside call, but none was coming, so Reilly, essentially all alone, coolly took a couple of dribbles and was never going to miss the opportunity to make it 4-1. Her outside-of-the-right-foot shot hit the target for her 13th of 2016. Her fourth career multi-goal effort meant a new single-season-best haul after 11 tallies in 2015.
For O'Laughlin, the assist meant point No. 41 on her incredible campaign, matching former Triton great Erika Alfredson's Division II-era program record for a single season from her national-championship senior year in 2001.
APU closed out the scoring in the 64th, Victoria Kovatch nodding home Haley Arft's right-sided corner kick at the back post. The Tritons from there, though, were never really in any threat of relinquishing their multi-goal cushion.
The Tritons produced a number of close calls in addition to their four scores. In the 32nd, junior left back Aimee Ellis played a fantastic pass over the top to fourth-year senior teammate Kristen Sampietro, whose attempt was saved by Klinkenberg. Junior Taylor Ramos (San Diego/Coronado HS) cracked one right off the crossbar from outside the box in the 72nd. Reilly weaved through traffic left to right before blazing one just over that same bar in the 80th.
Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Itzel Gonzalez collected three saves on the afternoon, with Klinkenberg finishing with six. The final shots tally was actually rather close, at 19-15 in favor of the home side.
UCSD had routed then-12th-ranked Azusa Pacific, 5-0, in the opener for both teams back on Sept. 1, also in La Jolla, with O'Laughlin bagging her first collegiate hat trick and Reilly adding a tally. APU thus began and ended its 2016 season at the same venue, with Saturday's result snapping a 12-game (9-0-3) unbeaten run in between.
Triton Notes: UCSD is 24-10-3 (.689) over its 14 NCAA Division II Championship appearances, including 1-0 against Azusa Pacific ... It was a first NCAA tournament home date since a 2-1 double-overtime triumph over Seattle Pacific on Nov. 10, 2012 ... The Tritons are 8-1 in La Jolla in 2016 ... UCSD has outscored opponents 58-9 this year as the West Region's top offensive side, and an incredible 37-3 after halftime ... This 16-game unbeaten streak (16-0) is UCSD's longest since a 19-gamer from Sept. 19-Dec. 2, 2010 ... It also marks the Tritons' best win streak since they took the final 17 games of their inaugural Division II season as national champions in 2000, and the first five in 2001 ... UCSD has outscored opponents 44-5 during this win streak ... The Tritons allowed multiple goals for just the second time this season, and first since the 3-2 defeat at WWU on Sept. 14 ... Mary Reilly has scored seven goals over the last seven matches ... Reilly was credited with a career-high nine shots, with a season-best six of them on goal, both totals leading all players in the game ... The assists on the Tritons' second goal were the fifth and fourth of the season for Kiera Bocchino and Makenzie Brito, respectively ... Sophomore winger Summer Bales celebrated her 19th birthday ... Senior Haley Arft, who assisted on APU's second goal, is the older sister of Merin Arft, a junior in the UCSD cross country and track and field programs.