Following their success at the UC Santa Barbara Tournament but also the unsatisfying tie with UC Los Angeles (UCLA), the Tritons were eager to start their regionals weekend strong. Saturday morning saw UC San Diego take on Arizona State University (ASU) in the increasing Arizona heat. Midfielder McKenzie Kirn almost put UC San Diego on the scoreboard with a narrow miss as her shot went just wide of the right post. The Tritons came out a little slow but eventually found their usually passing rhythms. Excellent combination play between forwards Laurel Bowling and Lizzie Blackwell, and midfielder and Captain Alaina Bujtor kept ASU on their toes. Midfielder Abby Chin also provided pressure with long shots. ASU did a good job pressuring the UC San Diego players but another great passing sequence between Bowling, Blackwell, and midfielder Anais Ortiz saw Bowling slot one past the keeper for the first goal of the game. ASU kept the game interesting with handspring throw-ins and a free kick which they put over the top from just outside the box. The short field forced captain and keeper Amy Schwartz to come out to collect some long balls which she gathered confidently and blasted back up field to the awaiting strikers.
The second half brought more chances for UC San Diego with Captain Hannah Hurd putting a long free kick just past the far post. The Tritons finally got another as striker Cynthia Ruiz-Lopez passed back to Bujtor who shot low from outside the box into the left corner. Striker Miriam Bell put a last minute chance just wide of the post, but by then win was already sealed and the Tritons were off to a great start. Excellent defense from the whole backline and steady hands and leadership from Schwartz held the shutout. While the Tritons dominated the game, they knew they had to step up their game for a UCLA rematch later the same day.
Second game of the tournament and UC San Diego faced off against neighboring rivals UCLA to clench a spot in the semifinals. UC San Diego came off a win from that morning against ASU while UCLA came off a loss against Cal Poly. This game served as a tie-breaker from the previous weekend when UC San Diego traveled to Los Angeles for the final game of the fall season and came out with a 1-1 tie. From the kickoff, it was clear UCLA was in it to prove they were the superior team and gain respect as a unit, but the cohesion wasn’t all there. UC San Diego dominated the first half with multiple opportunities from the attackers and even some from defenders Hannah Hurd and Kristen Wong high-tailing it up the field creating their own chances. Very few fouls were called either way, but one call gave UC San Diego a free kick taken by Hannah Hurd that was placed perfectly inside the box but shot just over the goal by Miriam Bell. Despite the effort, the game remained tied into halftime. Tension reached an all-time high with the kick off to the second half. UCLA came out harder and stronger, and by harder and stronger I mean, they were going for blood. But the referee allowed the play, so UC Diego matched with the same intensity. Finally, after stealing the ball at midfield from a UCLA outside mid, Alaina Bujitor began penetrating through their middle line and was tripped from behind giving UC San Diego a free kick from 45 yards out. This time Hannah Hurd, reprising the first free kick from about the same spot, took the shot herself and scored blasting the ball into the upper corner in the 60th minute of the game putting UC San Diego up 1-0. The next 20 minutes were spent playing keep away from UCLA and maintaining the lead. Highlight of the game goes to Audrey Mays who held the ball in the corner for a solid minute while UCLA players thrashed around her fighting to take it. At the end of the game UC San Diego clenched the 1-0 and the spot in the semifinals.
The first match of Sunday morning saw the face-off between California Polytechnic State University and UC San Diego for the final game in the group stage Sunday October 30th. Although the Tritons had sealed their spot into the semifinals later that day, they were out to beat all their opponents to prove they were the best team in the region. The game started with a long spell of possession from Cal Poly. This led to a goal from just inside the eighteen-yard box within the first 10 minutes of the match. After about 10 more minutes of even play, UC San Diego gave up a corner which Cal Poly’s outside defender scored off of. At the end of the half the score remained 2-0 in favor of the opposition. UC San Diego came out strong the second half, dominating possession and creating serious chances. Finally, in the 50th minute UC San Diego was able to get on the board with a shot from Senior Laurel Bowling that just dipped over the outstretched keeper’s hands. In a similar fashion Cal Poly scored nearly five minutes later, chipping the ball just over UC San Diego’s keeper’s hands. The game ended with a score of 3-1 in favor of Cal Poly. With this result and their two wins from the previous day of the tournament UC San Diego’s Women’s Club Soccer team advanced to the semi-finals facing UC Santa Barbara.
In the final match of the regionals tournament, UC San Diego faced the infamous UC Santa Barbara (UCSB). The match started with both sides getting good passing sequencing and putting both keepers under loads of pressure. The Tritons defense held off the numerous attacks from the gauchos but were quick to counter with two promising shots on goal from Monica Quevas and Anais Ortiz. The first half was characterized with raging passion and hard work from both sides of the pitch. The Tritons found their rhythm throughout the entire match with captain Alaina Bujtor taking long shots to test the hands of UCSB’s keeper. The Tritons dominated the end of the game by passing around the opponent but were unsuccessful in getting a goal in the net. The game ended with a 0-0 tie and went straight into one fifteen-minute overtime where chaos ensued the 18-yard box, which allowed one UC Santa Barbara attacker to toe poke the ball into the net. This win would allow them to advance themselves to the national tournament in Alabama and send the Tritons home with heads held high for their accomplishments. The Tritons believed their fall season to be over and endured a six-hour car ride home until they received an enjoyable email that invited them the national tournament in Alabama as well! The Tritons will continue their trek to glory as they continue their successful 10-2-2 fall season into nationals during the week of November 15th.