Win or go home: men’s soccer comes from behind against Fullerton, qualifies for postseason

Jaspery Goh/HIGHLANDER
Jaspery Goh/HIGHLANDER

November 6th, 2013

Anteaters 2 – Highlanders 1

 Entering the final week of the regular season, the UCR men’s soccer team took the field against UC Irvine, knowing that a victory would give them a chance at finishing first in the Big West South division.

 The first half featured both teams locked in a stalemate. Though the Highlanders controlled much of the offensive pace and outshot the Anteaters 8-6 in the first period, they had nothing to show for it.

 Ten minutes into the second half, Highlander Jonathan Tovar found Andy Contreras, who executed a masterful drive to the net to pick up his first goal of the season, as well as the first goal of the game.

 Mistakes proved to be the downfall of the Highlander squad, however, as a 79th minute penalty in the box allowed UCI’s leading scorer Enrique Cardenas to capitalize on a penalty kick and tie the game at 1-1. Unfathomably for the Highlanders, another goal was surrendered just two minutes later when Marco Franco found Christopher Santana to give the Anteaters a 2-1 lead.

 The crossbar was the only thing that prevented the Anteaters from scoring yet another goal in the 82nd minute, as Santana barely missed on an attempt for his second goal of the match. UCR would have one last gasp to tie the game when Aaron Long fired a header that came up empty, allowing the Anteaters to capture the victory.

 UC Irvine’s victory secures first place in the Big West South division for the Anteaters, officially eliminating the Highlanders from contention for the division title.

 Despite the loss, Head Coach Tim Cupello remains confident in his team’s ability to claim the final spot in the Big West tournament. “The urgency has been there with our team for quite some time now, (and) we are currently playing in good form and are well aware that it will take a solid performance to get the result we need to advance to the Big West tournament.”

 

October 9th, 2013

Highlanders 3 – Titans 2

 Unlike seasons past, the stakes were high in this regular season finale. Not only was it Senior Night for the Highlanders in their final game of the regular season, but also a win-or-go-home match that would determine who would be headed to the Big West tournament, and who would be looking forward to 2014.

 The Titans asserted control over the game early, with Alex Cannas scoring the first goal of the match thanks to a defensive miscue that resulted in a loose ball in the Highlander box.

UCR was able to shut out the Titans for the rest of the period, though their side of the field remained under attack for much of the first half. The Highlanders consistently found themselves with little opportunity to do anything on offense and were unable to capitalize on either of their two goal-scoring opportunities in the first half.

Coming out of the break, the Titans sucked the energy right out of the UCR crowd by taking a commanding 2-0 lead when Cannes and Steven Ortiz found a wide-open Garrett Losee in the Highlander box. Coming into tonight’s game, the Highlanders were 1-7 when allowing two or more goals.

Ten minutes after Losee’s goal, Highlander Eric Gonzalez found Ivan Garcia in the left corner, who scored a goal to cut the lead in half, 2-1, regaining momentum and the crowd’s affection.

The game-tying goal came eight minutes later, when Aaron Long and Romario Lomeli found Gonzalez who scored easily from the right side of the box.

With five minutes to go, the game appeared to be headed for overtime, a result that many Highlander fans would be content with given the debacle that took place in the first 48 minutes. However, a Gonzalez corner kick that was knocked into the hands of Titan goalkeeper Bryan Escalante rebounded into the waiting foot of Philipp Dominique. Dominique’s goal completed the epic comeback for UC Riverside in what is easily their most impressive win of the season.

Head Coach Tim Cupello spoke highly of his team following the win. “The fact that we were down 2-0 and fought to come back 3-2 — it shows a lot of character in our guys, and hopefully gives them the belief that even if we do give up a goal it’s not over until the final whistle.”

Cupello also called the win a “total team effort, everybody held in and stuck with the game plan the whole time.”

The UC Riverside men’s soccer team now joins its female counterpart by competing in the Big West tournament. The team hopes to carry over the momentum from Saturday’s big win when they take on the UC Davis Aggies in the first round of the postseason on Nov. 15.

 

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