LA JOLLA, Calif. - The third-ranked University of California San Diego women's soccer team saw its NCAA Championship run ended via penalty-kick tiebreaker at the hands of No. 23 University of Colorado Colorado Springs in the quarterfinal round Sunday afternoon in front of 605 spectators at Triton Soccer Stadium.
The official result of the match went down as a 1-1 draw through 90 minutes of regulation and a pair of 10-minute overtime periods. The first-time South Central Region champion Mountain Lions then procured a 4-3 advantage through the five rounds of penalty kicks.
UC San Diego, the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season and tournament double champion for the second successive year, as well as seventh-time Division II West Region champion, ends the campaign at 17-2-3. The Tritons' unbeaten stretch remained intact at 17 matches (14-0-3) to round out the season after back-to-back losses during their Colorado road trip in September.
UCCS kept its remarkable season alive, now at 17-4-1, as the Mountain Lions are headed to the national semifinals in just their first NCAA Championship appearance, and first year under new head coach Sian Hudson. They were 3-12-1 in 2016. UCCS will take on second-ranked Southeast Region champion Carson-Newman in the semifinals at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday, Nov. 30.
The Tritons went first in the tiebreaker, with senior goalkeeper Taylor Proctor saving senior All-American Katie O'Laughlin's (Carlsbad/Pacific Ridge School) shot. Katie Wilkes, a true freshman in just her third collegiate game, wiped the slate clean right away, however, by turning away Savannah Boarman. Natalie Saddic and Megumi Barber made the next two for UCSD, but UCCS answered both through Bethany Leliefield and Hanna Parado.
Proctor then saved freshman Michelle Baddour's (San Diego/University City HS) try to put the Mountain Lions back in the ascendancy. Tarah Patterson, the sophomore who had equalized from the penalty spot to send the game past regulation to begin with in the 79th minute, hit the target again in the tiebreaker. That put true freshman Delaney Whittet in the position that she had to make her kick, which she did, but needing a second stop, UCSD was unable to get that. Junior defender Anna Gregg found the back of the net, and sent her side through to the semifinals.
O'Laughlin had opened the scoring at the 13:58 mark. Freshman central midfielder and fellow Carlsbad product Caitlin McCarthy (Carlsbad HS) stole the ball around midfield and fed Mary Reilly (Chula Vista/Hilltop HS) up the field. The junior, in turn, played a pass from right to left for her strike partner. From the left just outside the penalty area, O'Laughlin settled and shot right-footed into the bottom left corner past the diving Proctor. It was her ninth on the year, pulling her even once more atop the team chart with Reilly. The goal was also the 37th and final one of O'Laughlin's tremendous UC San Diego career. She and Reilly combined for 68 scores as tandem forwards over the past three seasons.
Wilkes finished with five saves, including three big ones in the first overtime period, while Proctor managed eight stops. UCCS held a final edge in shots of 23-20.
The result marked the close of the college careers of seven great Triton seniors in O'Laughlin, fellow captains Makenzie Brito, Jordyn McNutt (San Diego/University City HS) and Elisa Martinez (El Cajon/Francis Parker School), and Brie Diaz, Aimee Ellis and Taylor Ramos (San Diego/Coronado HS). The class brought six trophies in all to the program. Brito and McNutt were unable to play, both having suffered season-ending knee injuries in home matches on Sept. 17 and Oct. 4, respectively.
UC San Diego produced Sunday's first decent opportunity to score, just 43 seconds in at that. The sequence began with Martinez, with Reilly running onto O'Laughlin’s subsequent through ball. Her right-footed shot on the ground went wide to the left.
UCCS then hit the crossbar twice within the next five minutes. In the third, what initially appeared to be a hopeful cross from the deep right side by Caitlin Esterle, bent toward the frame and caromed off the face of the bar. At the 5:30 mark, Gregg beat her defender on the end line on the right side and crossed to the far post for a wide-open header, but Lauren Vyvlecka directed that effort off the bar and over.
After the halftime interval, in the 63rd minute, freshman winger Natalie Widmer had her shot saved by Proctor after fine combination work from Ellis and junior Summer Bales. In the 68th minute, Wilkes went to her right to save Gregg's attempt.
The Mountain Lions leveled the score at 78:58 as they earned a penalty kick through an adjudged foul near the end line on the left side of the area. Patterson stepped up and buried what was the team's first spot-kick of the season, left-footed into the bottom left for her team-best ninth.
Within three minutes, O'Laughlin had her try from the left diagonal saved by Proctor.
Early in the first overtime, Wilkes tipped Gregg's hard shot over the bar for a corner kick. She then dove down to her left to thwart Patterson, again out for a corner, and minutes later denied Patterson once more. At 105:12, it was Proctor's turn, as Reilly got loose on the right diagonal but couldn't sneak her shot past the UCCS goalie.
Proctor, a first-year Mountain Lion and four-year basketball standout at the NCAA Division I level at the University of San Francisco from 2012-16 who played professional basketball overseas in Sweden in 2016-17 and also competitive handball internationally in the past, made the difference in the tiebreaker.
Triton Notes: Sunday marked the first meeting between the teams ... UC San Diego is 26-11-4 in 15 NCAA Division II Championship appearances ... UCSD had won 19 straight at home overall, since a 1-0 defeat to Colorado School of Mines on Sept. 11, 2016, and remains an unbeaten 19-0-1 over its last 20 home contests ... The Tritons allowed eight goals during this 17-game unbeaten streak (14-0-3) to end the year, the first one an own goal at Cal State Dominguez Hills on Sept. 22, and the last one from a penalty kick ... Senior starters Makenzie Brito and Jordyn McNutt, alongside redshirt sophomore starting goalkeeper Angelica Ramos, were all unavailable ... Head coach Brian McManus sent out the exact same starting lineup for the third straight game, all in the NCAA Championship ... UCSD's first year in Division II, 2000, remains the only season since the move from Division III in which the Tritons went unbeaten and untied at home, having finished 12-0 in La Jolla that year and 13-0-1 at Triton Soccer Stadium in 2017 ... UCSD wound up 3-0-1 against nationally-ranked teams in 2017, those four matchups all coming over the last four in postseason play ... Mary Reilly's assist was her fourth, as she finished tied with Katie O'Laughlin for most goals (nine) and points (22) ... Caitlin McCarthy's assist was her sixth.