On October 14th, the UC San Diego Women’s Club Soccer team played its first group stage match in the UC Santa Barbara Invitational Tournament against Colorado Gold and secured a 1-0 win. San Diego dominated for most of the game, maintaining possession and generating many chances off crosses from the flanks and through balls down the middle. Held scoreless until the second half, the Tritons finally got their goal from freshman Cynthia Ruiz-Lopez, who scored off of a breakaway that started from a long midfield header flick by senior Alaina Bujitor. The Tritons were able to close out the rest of the game with a shutout, securing the victory which would turn out to be a crucial result for their weekend-long bid for the tournament championship.
In the second game of the group stage the Tritons faced off against Chico State. The game was physical as most of the Chico girls towered over the Tritons. Chico utilized their athleticism with a high-pressing system in the first half, yielding an early chance that forced goalkeeper Amy Schwartz to quickly come off her line to extinguish a breakaway scenario. UCSD quickly regained their composure to break the pressing and systematically began to pick apart Chico’s midfield. A long-range effort from Abby Chin put the Tritons up by a goal going into halftime, and a quick tactical discussion during the break allowed UCSD to carry the momentum into the second half. Soon, a corner kick for UCSD temporarily transformed the game into pinball; after numerous deflections, the ball found its way to the feet of Monica Cuevas and then promptly found its way to the back of the net. Bujitor also put her name on the scoresheet to lead the Tritons to a convincing 3-0 victory.
After progressing through the group with an undefeated record, UCSD squared off against UC Davis in the quarterfinals. The game turned emotional as UCSD scored a late goal in the last 15 minutes of the game to win 1-0. During the game, Davis pressured the Tritons relentlessly waiting to pounce for a goal, but were confronted by a UCSD defense which stayed strong and fended off the attacks. The first half was ended with hunger for a goal on both ends of the field and it showed in the start of the second half. The passion of the game was demonstrated in the amount of fouls that UCSD conceived, a few close enough to the goal for goalkeeper Schwartz to be forced into action. As the second half was coming to a close, Miriam Bell took the game in her hands as she blasted a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box that rippled the back of the net and brought the reigning national champs, UC Davis to a fall and pushed the Tritons to the semifinals the next day.
The UC San Diego Tritons continued their journey to face off against USC in the semifinals of the tournament. The game was, for the most part, evenly matched, with UCSD holding possession of the ball for a little over half of the time. Both teams were holding their own as the game went back and forth. In the games’ dying minutes, UCSD made a bold tactical formation change to exploit the space and pursue an elusive goal. Soon after, McKenzie Kirn would send a scintillating through ball to Cynthia Ruiz-Lopez. Ruiz, outrunning the last defender, kept her composure and made the game winning goal to advance the Tritons on to the finals!
After a grueling four-game gauntlet, the UC San Diego women faced off against UC Santa Barbara in the finals this weekend during the Santa Barbara Tournament. Having suffered a defeat to the Gauchos recently, UC San Diego was eager to nab a victory in enemy territory. The San Diego women put forth a great display of energy despite the weekend’s mileage. Chances were fairly limited for both sides, but horror struck late in the second half when the officiator let out a long whistle and pointed to San Diego’s penalty spot. After a brief conversation with his assistant, the referee uncharacteristically revoked his decision, and the crisis was averted. The game remained scoreless until the end of regulation and went straight into a shootout to decide the victor. UCSD goalkeeper Amy Schwartz put forth a heroic effort in saving two penalty kicks and last-kicker Kelsey Haughan made the back of the net ruffle to secure the championship and restore honor to La Jolla.