DENVER, Colo. - Head coach Brian McManus' side sure has made things interesting this season.
The fifth-ranked Tritons played a 10th overtime match and fourth straight this postseason, ultimately advancing past No. 15 Colorado School of Mines via penalty-kick tiebreaker, 6-5, and into the NCAA Semifinals. Sunday's NCAA Division II Women's Soccer Championship Quarterfinal at Metro State's Auraria Field finished in a scoreless draw through 90 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime.
Kelcie Brodsky, a true freshman out of Agoura Hills, saved three shots in the tiebreaker, before Alexa Enlow, a fourth-year senior out of Huntington Beach, stepped up to bury the decisive kick.
For McManus, who moved into the all-time lead in NCAA Division II wins at 433 just this past Friday with the 2-1 overtime victory over Western Washington, this marks an incredible 15 Final Four appearances in 26 seasons in charge of UC San Diego. The Tritons are in search of their eighth national crown under McManus. With the result officially a tie, UCSD moved its overall record to 16-2-4 on the year.
The Orediggers, the lowest-seeded team to make the last eight of this NCAA tournament and both the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) and South Central Region champions, completed their campaign at 18-4-2. Colorado Mines is based in Golden, Colo., about 14 miles due west of Denver.
UCSD now advances to the NCAA Semifinals against a familiar foe in Grand Valley State, on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 9 a.m. PT. The final two rounds of the 2012 championship will be held at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga., with the Peach Belt Conference serving as host, Nov. 29-Dec. 1. The Lakers, out of Allendale, Mich., are the Midwest Region champion, the 2009 and 2010 national champion and 2011 national runner-up. UCSD lost to GVSU, 4-0, in Louisville, Ky., in the 2010 title match. The Lakers outlasted Minnesota State-Mankato, also via penalty-kick tiebreaker (5-4), Sunday after a 2-2 draw. Defending national champion Saint Rose will take on another No. 1 seed in West Florida in the second semifinal at 12 p.m. PT on Nov. 29.
Sunday's high-drama tiebreaker began with CSM junior Kelsey Neal and UCSD senior Britnee Chesney trading goals to the right side. Another Oredigger junior, Bree Archuleta, then laid her signature to a rather rare shootout occurrence, as her shot was initially saved by Brodsky to her right, only for the ball to pop up in the air, contact the Triton goalie on the way down, and find its way across the goal line. After Triton captain Gabi Hernandez converted on her attempt, Brodsky did in fact keep the ball out on Anna Evans, diving to her left this time to give her side the edge, albeit briefly. Redshirt freshman right back Michelle Yasutake's third-round kick for UCSD went wide to the right, and the sides were still knotted through three rounds.
Consecutive makes to the left by Rachael Turner and Ellen Wilson maintained the parity ahead of a Dani Hering conversion for Mines. That meant the first of two do-or-die kicks for UCSD, but senior tri-captain Hayley Johnson, determined not to make it the final touch of her college career, shot true to the upper left side.
Deirdre Johnson kept the pressure on the Tritons, but Casey Parisi was unfazed, finding the left corner to keep UCSD hopes alive.
That's when things really got interesting. Brodsky saved on Becca Morales, but Izzy Pozurama's potential game-winner bounced off the right post and came away, necessitating an eighth round. Brodsky, again, sent Aubrey Bagley back empty-handed, and Enlow, who had been forced to leave the fray momentarily late in regulation due to injury, made no mistake with her opportunity to end it, going mid-range to her left side.
Earlier, the contest featured a first half in which both sides generally tried to test the other with shots from distance. Both of Colorado Mines' goals in its 2-1 third-round victory over Metro State on Friday had come in such a manner after turnovers.
UCSD had the first shot of the game within the first five minutes as senior midfielder Jessica Wi took a short pass from Cassie Callahan, dribbled down the right wing and cut her defender toward the middle of the penalty area, but her shot went wide.
Wilson and Callahan had long-range efforts go high above the crossbar over the next 11 minutes.
The first attempt actually on goal came from CSM's Bagley in the 19th minute, with Brodsky in position to save. Pozurama followed that up with UCSD's first shot on target seconds later, with Brodsky's freshman counterpart Jayln Yates catching with ease. Bagley had a second shot from a ways out again in the 22nd minute that didn't trouble Brodsky, either.
In the 30th minute, senior midfielder Megan Woodworth took a right-footed free kick from around 25 yards that Brodsky was able to tip with some difficulty over the bar. On the ensuing corner kick, Brodsky caught the header by Turner.
Arguably the best chance of the period came from the Orediggers in the 33rd, as a corner kick found its way to the back post, where Neal's was cleared off the line by the foot of a well-placed Johnson. UCSD was outshot 8-4 in the opening 45 minutes.
Early in the second period, Enlow lifted a long through ball that bounced and was run onto by Callahan, but her swipe at the ball was cancelled out by a charging Yates near the top of the area. A mere 20 seconds later, a shot by Turner was deflected and trickled inches wide of Brodsky's left post for a corner.
Evans, the Orediggers' leading scorer, dribbled through the middle and took a left-footed shot in the 51st minute that was blocked away to safety by Wilson.
In the 63rd minute, Johnson hit a curling, in-swinging corner kick from the right that skipped just inches wide of the far post.
With 14 minutes left in regulation, sophomore Kylene Hill made a nice, dribbling run down the left wing, beating her defender, before crossing toward the back post, where senior Mary McWalters' header attempt went over the goal.
An 83rd-minute Johnson corner created another dangerous opportunity for the Tritons. As the ball squirted through the crowd, with a deft leave by Gabi Hernandez in the center of the six-yard box, the CSM defense was able to deny the score. The ball popped up, with Yates snatching Callahan's header out of the air.
As regulation time wound down, a left-footed shot from straight on by Dani Hering went narrowly above the UCSD goal.
The first overtime period saw Yasutake play Wi down the right wing toward the end line, with Wi turning the corner and crossing low into the middle. It looked like instant replay from Friday's overtime winner over Western Washington, but Pozurama's shot wasn't quite strong enough to make it through. The sophomore's header moments later went harmlessly into Yates' arms.
In the 104th minute, Evans corralled the ball on the left diagonal, turned and struck a right-foot blast that banged off the crossbar as the Tritons breathed a sigh of relief. A strong shot by Woodworth two minutes later was turned away by a defender.
Brodsky finished the match with six saves, collecting her ninth shutout. Yates made seven stops for her 11th. The Orediggers ended with a 19-15 shot advantage.
Triton Notes: UCSD is now 22-8-3 all-time in 12 appearances at the NCAA Division II Championship ... The Tritons are 10-6-1 in NCAA Division II Championship action outside of La Jolla ... UCSD is 5-1-4 in overtime and 10-0-3 away from home in 2012, including 2-0-2 on neutral fields ...Sunday's match marked the first-ever meeting between UCSD and Colorado Mines ... Both sides began the day on lengthy unbeaten streaks, both of which continued, with the Tritons now at eight (6-0-2) and the Orediggers at 14 (12-0-2) ... CSM was winners of six straight prior to Sunday's tie ... Ellen Wilson has still played every minute of every match for UCSD as a senior ... Her opening goal was her third this season and ninth of her career ... Kelcie Brodsky, Britnee Chesney, Alexa Enlow, Hayley Johnson and Jessica Wi have also started all 22 matches ... UCSD's 10-player senior class, after coming up short in three previous penalty-kick tiebreakers during their careers, have put together back-to-back successes in this postseason, in the CCAA Championship final, and Sunday ... The Tritons lost sophomore midfielder and leading scorer Cassie Callahan with under two minutes to play in the second overtime as she received a gash over her left eye in a mid-air conclusion ... Though Callahan was unable to participate in the tiebreaker, she is expected to be ready to face GVSU on Nov. 29.
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