After securing a second straight trip to the CCAA Tournament thanks to a 2-1 victory over Cal State East Bay Oct. 27, Cal Poly Pomona’s league-leading women’s soccer team fell short against the second-place Cal State San Marcos Cougars Oct. 29, losing the match 1-0 in heartbreaking fashion.
Despite both sides relentlessly attacking throughout the game, the sole goal of the match was scored early in the first half following a simple defensive error by CPP’s keeper. For head coach Jay Mason, the loss offered a valuable lesson for the squad headed into the CCAA Tournament.
“With the tournament format, you look at it, and a lot of the teams who have won it haven’t necessarily won the regular season,” Mason said. “So for us, it’s hopefully a good learning moment that you just got to take it one game at a time.”
The Cougars were aggressive from the outset, consistently securing possession in midfield and forcing CPP to play from its backline. The Broncos found some offensive progress in the 15th minute, recording one shot and securing a corner kick back-to-back, but San Marcos continued dictating the pace of the game and was the first side to find a real breakthrough.
In the 18th minute, San Marcos secured a corner kick, which CPP’s defense effortlessly cleared before any Cougar attacker could even secure possession. But just as both teams ran back toward midfield to continue the ongoing battle for possession, San Marcos defender Emma Hord volleyed the ball back into CPP’s box from 40 yards out in an attempt to connect with any attackers still lurking in the penalty area. The ball looked destined to end up back in CPP goalie Bella Hara’s hands, but the home crowd watched in horror as it bounced right out of her arms, back over her head and just crossed the line to give CSUSM an early 1-0 lead.
Now trailing by one thanks to Hord’s first goal of her collegiate career, the Broncos stepped up their aggression in the midfield as the teams traded possession back and forth.
Both squads occasionally made progress down field, but the game became a deadlock through the end of the first half as San Marcos repeatedly squandered scoring opportunities off set pieces and CPP struggled to get attackers into the box.
“There’s a reason San Marcos hasn’t given up a lot of goals,” Mason said. “They defend that area well. They sat a little bit deeper in that moment, and that made the space tough for our kids to find seams in.”
After the halftime break, the Broncos looked to gain control of the match by stepping up their aggression in the midfield, resulting in both sides mostly fighting for possession for much of the half.
The clearest opportunities for CPP to score came in the 67th minute as an attempted cross by forward Tara Oper secured CPP a corner kick. Oper lifted the ball into the box and found midfielder Liberty Ortiz, who headed the ball on the far set of the net. While the shot bested Cougar goalkeeper Allison Marcure, a defender cleared the ball off the line to keep the Broncos at bay.
Just three minutes later, the Broncos again found a clear scoring opportunity after Oper volleyed a cross into the box from the right wing and Marcure went down after colliding with a teammate, leaving the goal wide open. CPP midfielder Nicolle Villarreal scrambled to the loose ball and launched it at the center of the net, but a Cougar defender again stretched to clear the ball off the line in miraculous fashion.
Still trailing by one, the Broncos’ chance for redemption was nearly crushed when CSUSM midfielder Hannah Ramos slipped past CPP’s back line and faced Hara one-on-one in the 76th minute. But Ramos slowed down to shoot as she entered the penalty area, giving Hara just enough time to box out her opponent and make a miraculous save.
In the closing minutes of the match, with a league-changing win on the horizon, CSUSM focused on slowing down the match and locking down the midfield.
While the teams mustered one more shot each in the final 14 minutes, neither could find the back of the net, and the Cougars closed out the match with a 1-0 victory over the Broncos, bringing the teams level with 22 points each in conference play.
While the match was overall a disappointment for CPP, players were hopeful they could return to form in their offensive game as the season comes to a close.
“I think it’s something we’re trying to work on: getting a second layer and getting more people in the box,” defender Giselle Samayoa said.
With San Marcos and CPP tied for first in the league, the Broncos faced Cal State San Bernardino in their all-important regular season finale Nov. 2. In that match, a single goal by midfielder Alexis Macias gave CPP the edge, and with San Marcos unable to best Cal State East Bay on the same day, the Broncos secured their first ever CCAA regular season title.
The team’s next challenge will be the CCAA Tournament where the Broncos will take on the Cal Poly Humboldt Lumberjacks Friday, Nov. 10 for a shot at glory in the grand finals Sunday, Nov. 12.