DENVER, Colo. – Gabi Hernandez scored less than a minute into overtime to lift UC San Diego to a 2-1 victory over Western Washington University in the West Regional championship of the NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer National Tournament between two nationally ranked teams Friday afternoon at Auraria Field on the Metro State campus.
The Vikings, ranked No.23 nationally in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America/NCAA II Top 25 and the No.5 seed, finish the season 19-4-0. Catherine Miles (Fr., Anacortes) had the lone goal for WWU, tying her for team-high honors this year with nine.
The regional final matched the best-ever NCAA II tournament run for WWU, which also reached the West Region title game in 2008, when the Vikings fell, 1-0, in overtime, to Seattle Pacific.
UC San Diego, ranked No.5 nationally and the regional No.2 seed, improved to 16-2-3. The Tritons, who have not lost on the road in 12 games this season (10-0-2), advance to the national quarterfinals Sunday (12 noon) against Colorado Mines, which defeated host Metro State, 2-1, in the South Central Region final.
The Vikings had won their first two tournament games in overtime, but saw their tourney run end early in the extra period Friday. Jessica Wi got behind the WWU defense down the right side, dribbled into the penalty area then cut a pass back for Hernandez, who calmly fired it home from about 12 yards.
“That’s the way soccer goes,” said WWU coach Travis Connell (10th year, 121-59-19). “We’ve been on the winning side of those and sometimes on the losing side. It doesn’t feel very good, but I’m very proud of the players and our team. We’ve had a wonderful season.”
UC San Diego opened the scoring in the 20th minute, as Ellen Wilson headed in a Hayley Johnson corner kick.
The Vikings equalized in the 29th minute. Brianna Jones (So., Bonney Lake) played a long ball forward to Kristin Maris (Jr., Issaquah) just outside the top of the penalty area. Maris held the ball up and eventually played the ball to the right for Miles, who took a clever touch to beat a defender then blasted a shot inside the far post from 15 yards.
“We got off to a little bit of a shaky start and gave up the goal, and a freshman takes it upon herself to single-handedly put one in the back of the net,” said Connell. “It gave our team so much hope and we began to build off that.
“We had chances, they had chances. It just so happened that they scored the last goal. They’re a fantastic team, and they’ll do well as they go forward.”
The Tritons, who had a 17-11 advantage in shot attempts, had the best opportunities of the second half. In the 64th minute, a Wilson header hit the crossbar and fell to Izzy Pozurama, whose shot from seven yards with the goal open went high.
WWU goalkeeper Jamie Arthurs (Sr., Richland), the GNAC Player of the Year, had four saves. Arthurs had a school-record 16 shutouts this season, one shy of the national record, allowing just nine goals. She had a school-record 39 shutouts during her four-year career, which tied for sixth nationally.
WWU, which won both the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles, reached the regional championship with 2-1 overtime victories over Cal Poly Pomona and Sonoma State.
The 19 victories were a school record for the Vikings.
“There’s records and championships and tournaments and all that, but realistically it’s just a great group of individuals,” Connell said. “They came together and worked extremely hard for each other, and they got to experience what not too many people get to. When they reflect on this, they’ll look back on this as a fond memory.”
NCAA II National Tournament – West Regional championship
Friday, November 16, 2012
Auraria Field/Metro State campus/Denver, Colo.
UC San Diego 2, Western Washington 1 (OT)
Scoring – 1. UCSD, Ellen Wilson (Hayley Johnson), 19:48;
2. WWU, Catherine Miles (Kristin Maris), 28:01;
3. UCSD, Gabi Hernandez (Jessica Wi, Izzy Pozurama), 90:51.
Shots – WWU 11, UCSD 17
Saves – WWU 5 (Jamie Arthurs 4), UCSD 5 (Kelsey Brodsky 5).
Corner kicks – WWU 4, UCSD 8
Fouls – WWU 8, UCSD 7
Western Washington 19-4-0
UC San Diego 16-2-3