No. 6 Tritons' Run Ended by No. 17 Bridgeport in National Semifinals, 2-0
PITTSBURGH - The No. 6 University of California San Diego women's soccer team dropped a 2-0 decision to the University of Bridgeport in a 2018 NCAA Division II Championship national semifinal match Thursday night at Highmark Stadium.
SportsPITTSBURGH, Clarion University and Slippery Rock University are serving as co-hosts, with Highmark Stadium the neutral-site home of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC of the United Soccer League (USL).
Repeat West Region champion UC San Diego, seeded second ahead of the semifinals, ends the season at 19-3-2 overall. Third-seeded East Region victor Bridgeport, from Bridgeport, Conn., improved to 19-4-1. The Purple Knights are winners of eight in a row following the first all-time meeting between the sides, and advance to their first national championship game Saturday afternoon against top-ranked Grand Valley State (25-0-1), a 3-0 victor over Lee (TN) in Thursday night's second semifinal.
Senior All-American Mary Reilly (Chula Vista/Hilltop HS) had her shooting shoes on in the early going, firing off three attempts over the first 13 minutes that traveled wide, high and wide. She also narrowly missed strike partner Megumi Barber (San Diego/Mt. Carmel HS) on a through-ball attempt on the edge of the penalty area. The Tritons then earned four consecutive corner kicks over the 18th and 19th minutes, all by senior All-American Summer Bales, but were unable to find the opening goal. At the end of the day, they would have eight corner kicks, but zero shots from them.
Barber ran onto a nice through ball later in the period in the 32nd, but her left-footed effort was saved by the Bridgeport goalie.
The closest the Purple Knights came to scoring in the first half, was likely a late right-footer from distance by Amanda Ebbesson that whizzed wide of the right post. That was of course until a whipped right-footed shot by Nara DaCosta from the right diagonal was barely slapped over the crossbar by the right hand of UC San Diego goalkeeper Angelica Ramos with under 30 seconds left in the frame.
The second half began with another Triton chance, as Bales hit Maddy Samilo (Rancho Bernardo/Rancho Bernardo HS) on the right diagonal, and the sophomore winger's attempt went agonizingly wide of the left post. That opportunity in fact had come straight away from a blocked shot by Reilly from the top of the area.
In the 53rd minute, suddenly UC San Diego found itself down, as Ebbesson found the bottom left corner with her right-footed shot from inside the penalty box, with the ball just beyond Ramos’ reach. Elin Eklund and Annie Bjork both were credited with assists, with Bjork's cutting through ball to Eklund key to igniting the scoring sequence. It was a third tally on the year for Ebbesson, all in this postseason.
Bridgeport added its second at the 73:00 mark. The Purple Knights received a free kick on the right diagonal, just outside the box. Karoline Vieira, stepped over it from the right side, and from the left, first-team All-American forward Maegen Doyle stepped up and sent a beautiful, curling right-footed shot into the left netting to make it 2-0. It was her 28th goal of the season, No. 2 in the country in Division II, and meant an 18th consecutive game played with a goal for the junior from England.
Ramos, a redshirt junior, made two saves. Senior Jennifer Wendelius had four stops for the Purple Knights to post her 11th individual clean sheet. Shots were even at 6-6 at the break, with the Tritons procuring an 18-11 advantage on the night.
UC San Diego nearly pulled one back late, but after a nifty layoff by Reilly, sophomore central midfielder Caitlin McCarthy's (Carlsbad/Carlsbad HS) saw her left-footer on the ground saved by Wendelius, who dove down to her left to knock the ball out for a corner kick in the 79th minute. Barber's 25-plus-yard left-footer in the 89th smacked off the crossbar as she almost went out with one more banger.
Natalie Saddic (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS), a redshirt junior co-captain and unanimous first-team All-American, moved from holding central midfielder to right back for the final 29:28 of the first half, as sophomore Natalie Widmer had to exit with an injury. The Santa Barbara product returned for the second half, though true freshman Emily Killeen filled in admirably for Saddic in the defensive midfield role.
The result meant the end of the illustrious Triton careers of fourth-year seniors Bales, Barber and Reilly. Bales finishes with 25 career assists and Barber with 17 goals, including a career-high 11 this year. Reilly leaves with 49 goals and 121 total points, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the program’s all-time record book. She is the career goal-scoring leader for UC San Diego's Division II era, since 2000.
Ramos and fellow redshirt junior Kelsey Kimball, the Tritons' starting center back, will have a decision to make. Both were recognized on Senior Day. Both have one season of college eligibility remaining, should they choose to use it.
"I think we all remember our first week trying not to get cut from the team, and look at us now," said Bales after the match. "We're all starting, playing, making it to this point. It's been absolutely incredible to see our growth over the years."
Bales, Barber, Kimball and Reilly, the four fourth-year members of the squad, combined for nine trophies, with the last four California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament crowns, the past three CCAA regular-season titles, and back-to-back West Region championships. That total matched coach Kristin Jones' 2003 group for the most trophies by a a senior class in program history.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego is 28-12-5 (.678) after its 16th NCAA Division II Championship appearance ... This was the Tritons' 30th NCAA tournament run in all, including Division III days ... UC San Diego is 4-2 in Division II national semifinals … UC San Diego utilized the same starting lineup for the 22nd time in 24 games this year ... Senior co-captain Summer Bales started her 47th consecutive game on the left side of midfield ... Redshirt junior co-captain Natalie Saddic started her 63rd straight match ... Saddic's half-hour stint at right back to end the first half is believed to be her first as a collegian ... A game-high six shots gave Mary Reilly an even career high of 120 on the year, as she led the CCAA in that category in all four of her seasons and finished with 387 total, likely a program record ... Reilly wound up with 50 more shots than strike partner Megumi Barber, who was second behind her in the CCAA with a career-best 70 ... The game-time temperature was 31 degrees ... The Tritons went 2-1-1 on artificial surfaces in 2018 ... UC San Diego conceded two goals for just the second time all year, both coming in the NCAA Championship, and finished with 14 scores allowed ... Former Triton players on hand included Natasha Belak-Berger (2005-08), Jaymie Bradford (1991-93), Jennifer (Ewert) Bogle (1992-95) and Lauren Segars (2004-07) ... Following Saturday's title game, Mary Reilly was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team.
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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