UCSD Loses to Davis In First Group Stage Game
On Friday, Oct. 13, UCSD faced their most difficult competition of the season yet against UC Davis in the UCSB Invitational tournament. After a long car ride, the Tritons took to the field as the air turned cool and light turned to dusk. Their warmups previewed a solid start, pinging the ball around during possession and hitting the mark on our shots.
The first half gained paced as soon as the young and seemingly novice referee blew his whistle. It quickly became clear what UC Davis was trying to do: stack players up front, swing the ball, and find their weak side forwards. UCSD struggled to adapt to UC Davis’ rapid speed of play, sending long, sloppy balls down the field amid the chaos and panic. Within the first ten minutes, the Tritons were stunned by a goal off a quick turnover in the midfield: Davis stole the ball and played it through for a pacey forward to break away from the Tritons’ defensive line for a clean shot into the goal. As the game proceeded, the fast pace was relentless and the Tritons felt the high pressure of Davis’ attack, which caused them to give up easy balls and often lose possession as soon as they had won it. In the center of the field, UCSD struggled to connect passes and settle the ball down to play ground passes to feet rather than high, lobbing balls that Davis’ tall center backs easily headed away. After the first half came to a disappointing end, the team discussed at half time new strategies and areas of improvement; the Tritons came out into the second half with high energy and the determination to come back from behind.
The second half started with the same pressure, but UCSD was more composed in passing and maintaining possession. Throughout the half the Tritons started to string passes together and generate more chances in the attacking third. Although not perfect, defensive marks were passed more fluidly across the backline as well – perhaps a result of the team’s improved communication between players. About 20 minutes into the second half, though, UC Davis played a through ball to their skillful left forward who took a touch and finessed the ball into the goal. If the first goal dampened the Tritons’ spirits, the second one crushed them. There were some bright spots in the second half, for the Tritons were able to create several opportunities from finding open space on the far side for forwards to penetrate the box. Ultimately, it became too difficult for the Tritons to bounce back from the early goal and UCSD was handed their first loss of the season and of the tournament. They would look forward to a potentially easier, but a must-win game against Colorado Black the next day.
UCSD Defeats Colorado Black in Dramatic Group Stage Game
On Saturday Oct. 14th, the UCSD women’s club soccer team faced off against Colorado Black for their second game in the UCSB invitational tournament. From the moment the whistle blew, the Tritons were on top of the ball and ready to play, determined to rebound from their previous defeat to UC Davis. They needed five goals and a shutout to place them in the best possible position of advancing to the championship bracket – everyone knew it was a must-win game.
Despite the playoff stress and burden, the Tritons started off strong in the first half, passing the ball with calm and composure against a hustling Colorado side. In the 13th minute, junior forward Makenna Gandara collected the ball off a throw in, made a smooth move to beat her defender and slide a ball through for graduate student Miriam Bell to finish in a semi-breakaway fashion. One goal down, four left to go. With high spirits and a renewed motivation, the Tritons were in it to win it. In the 27th minute, sophomore Rachel Ng sent a long ball down the field for junior Lizard Blackwell, who controlled the ball well before shooting it into the net. At 2-0, The Tritons were desperate to score more goals and continued to create more chances with center midfielders Emma Schoenthal and Anais Ortiz getting many shots on target from outside the eighteen. Putting on the pressure, UCSD dominated the half and constantly kept the Colorado defense on their toes with through balls down the line and crosses into the box. Despite the heavy possession, the Tritons ended the half with two goals. They would come out in the second half with an even greater burning desire to score many more.
Well into the second half, UCSD took a blow when Makenna Gandara, dribbling the ball into the attacking half, was fouled from behind by a clumsy Colorado defender. What appeared to be a harmless trip ended with Gandara on the ground in pain, clutching her knee and unable to get up. Eventually, the medical staff brought her off the field and while they tended to her injuries, UCSD would have to play without their star forward. The referee gave the Tritons a free kick for the horrible foul, and senior Emma Schoenthal stepped up to take the shot, blasting the ball into the back of the net just above the keeper’s reach. Her goal was for Makenna, and UCSD was rejuvenated with a purpose to make Colorado pay for their teammate’s injury. In a fit of passion, junior Lizard Blackwell received a yellow card for body checking one of the opposition’s defenders after the ball was passed. Tempers were high and UCSD, desperate to score two more, poured on the attack.
Only ten minutes or so remained in the second half, and the Tritons knew their championship hopes were on the line if they didn’t get the maximum amount of goals. After missing a clear breakaway shot at the keeper, sophomore Cynthia Ruiz-Lopez finally found the back of the net off a corner kick from McKenzie Kirn, firing a low shot past a stationary Colorado defense for the fourth goal. With the clock ticking away, the Tritons refused to cease their heavy pressure and won another corner kick. This time, Emma Schoenthal chipped a perfect ball into the crowd of players. Soaring above all others was freshman Natalie Maloney who, in the dramatic climax of the game, headed the ball past the keeper’s outstretched hands and gave UCSD the final goal they needed. Minutes later, as the referee blew the final whistle, the Tritons cheered with relief and happiness. The scoreboard showed: UCSD 5, COLORADO, 0. What it didn’t show was the Tritons’ teamwork at its finest: a combination of clinical, goal-hungry forwards, dominant and composed midfielders, and a strong defensive backline that helped the team achieve what seemed at the time “impossible”. Though one of their starters dislocated her patella and would not be able to play for the rest of the tournament, UCSD pulled through for this bittersweet victory. After the game, they found out they earned the wildcard seed that would pit them against rivals UCSB in the quarterfinals later that day.
UCSD Holds Their Own Against UCSB, But Falls Short
On Oct. 14th, the UCSD Tritons took on the UCSB Gauchos in the quarterfinals of the UCSB Invitational tournament, only 40 minutes after crushing Colorado for the 5-0 win which allowed them to advance into the knockout round of the champions bracket. Despite the lack of rest, the Tritons suited up in their home colors and were determined to fight for a victory against the hosts. Undeterred by UCSB’s loud and obnoxious music playlist, UCSD warmed up on the field with dynamic play, focusing on the challenge that lay before them. In the beginning of the half, the Tritons were the better team as their midfield maintained most of the possession and created numerous chances on goal, including some powerful long-range shots. Their momentum took a turn, however, when UCSB capitalized on their only opportunity: a Gaucho forward crossed a ball across the box to the opposite forward who settled the ball, took a touch past the Triton defense, and calmly placed the ball into the back of the net. Later into the half, UCSB was awarded a penalty kick for an arguable trip in the box. Keeper Amy Schwartz lunged toward her top right corner to parry the penalty kick into the post for a messy but safe rebound, keeping the Tritons in the game.
Coming into the second half, the Tritons were hungry for a goal, putting heavy pressure on their opponent’s back line in hopes of scoring the equalizer. Both sides had their share of chances, but as each team ran up and down the field, UCSD’s fatigue from the Colorado game was starting to show. Several minutes later, a poor turnover by the Triton’s backline was pounced on by a pressuring UCSB forward, leading to a breakaway and the Gauchos’ second goal of the game. The Tritons’ playoff dreams appeared to be crushed; but with 15 minutes left, a UCSB defender passed a ball back to her keeper who illegally picked it up. The referee called for an indirect free kick right outside the six-yard box, which senior Emma Schoenthal fired, at close range, against a rushing wall of defenders across the goal line. The score was now closer than ever, and the Tritons were inspired with a renewed sense of passion and urgency to tie the game. With the clock counting down, the Tritons were relentlessly trying to score a second goal. It almost came with forward Lizard Blackwell’s unexpected but magnificent bicycle kick from the top of the 18-yard box that just went over the crossbar. As the Gauchos continued to waste time by holding the ball by the corner flag, UCSD was unable to score a goal, ending the game in a 2-1 victory for UCSB.
Next week, UCSD resumes league play with a home game against UC Irvine on Oct. 21 as well an away game against UCSB on Oct. 22 with hopes of taking revenge and beating the Gauchos.