After taking down the Otters in the semi-final match, the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos endured a heartbreaking loss Sunday, Nov. 12 in the CCAA Tournament grand final against Cal State LA.
The Broncos kicked off their ninth-straight CCAA tournament run at College Creek Field, home of tournament hosts Cal Poly Humboldt, against the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters. The Broncos skipped the quarter finals after securing a first round bye thanks to their second-place finish in the regular season standings.
CPP started its tournament run strong, securing possession early and pushing deep into Otter territory. After two narrowly missed opportunities, CPP struck gold with just two minutes on the clock. Midfielder Max Laguna sent the ball into the box from a corner kick, which defender Marcus Jorgensen swiftly headed into the net to give the Broncos a blistering fast 1-0 lead.
And the scoring did not stop there, as the Broncos kept their foot on the gas and secured another huge opportunity to cook in the ninth minute. After receiving the ball from midfielder Mike Moser, forward Paul Roger Henschke pushed past the the Otter defense into the penalty box and drew a foul. Woody Angell took the penalty, and he made the most of it when he buried the shot to give CPP a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the match.
The Otters responded in the 12th minute, as Otter midfielder Janos Kömmerling sent a free kick into the CPP penalty box, where it was headed in by defender Garrett Hayes to cut the CPP lead to one. The early fireworks paved the way for a stalemate later in the half as both defenses locked in to keep the scoreline at 2-1 in CPP’s favor at halftime.
Coming out of the second half, CSUMB made multiple efforts to even the score, but CPP goalkeeper CJ Walker locked down the net, recording four saves in the process. The Broncos’ defense played nearly flawlessly, stopping every Otter chance to hold on to their 2-1 victory.
With the win, the Broncos entered Sunday’s grand final against the Cal State LA Golden Eagles seeking their fourth-ever CCAA Tournament Championship. Sunday’s bout was a heavyweight fight, with two of the very best in the nation duking it out to stake their claim as champions.
Both teams, recognizing the weight of the game, felt each other out at the start. Neither side could find any clear opportunities with both teams possessing elite defenses, and the half ultimately remained scoreless.
The Golden Eagles came out of the halftime intermission swinging as they set up multiple chances thwarted by CPP’s stellar defense. CPP, meanwhile, struggled to set up any counterattacking opportunities, with an offsides call neutralizing one breakthrough in the 70th minute.
After another 20 minutes of defensive stalemate, the game went to overtime.
CPP recorded four shots on target during the first overtime period but could not score. CSULA, meanwhile, produced no threats at all, leading this final into a second overtime period.
New overtime period, but it was more of the same: a gritty defensive affair where neither team could gain an edge. After the final whistle blew in the second overtime period, penalty kicks were on the way.
The Golden Eagles drew the first chance in penalty kicks and scored. Golden Eagle goalkeeper Julian Aadlandsvik then saved CPP’s first attempt to secure a 1-0 advantage. Both teams converted their next three chances, leaving the Golden Eagles with a 4-3 edge in the fifth round of kicks. CPP had to get a stop in order to stay alive, and it found the luck it needed as the shot ended up wide of the net. The Broncos, however, missed their chance to equalize as Aadlandsvik came up big again for CSULA, sending them home as CCAA Tournament Champions.
“I am just so proud of our group for the way they fought this weekend,” said Broncos head coach Matt O’Sullivan. “To play a game like that takes intense focus, energy and effort for over two hours; we left everything we had on that field.”
It was a gut-wrenching finish to an otherwise fantastic season to this point. But the great thing for the Broncos is this is not the end of their season. Even without winning the auto-bid that comes with winning the CCAA Tournament, they will continue their season in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid.
“The beauty of this situation was that we knew that we would be advancing no matter what happened in the tournament,” said O’Sullivan. “Everything is on the line now. We have to play to our highest capability from here on out to finish this thing out as champions.”
The Broncos then turned their attention to a familiar foe, Cal State Monterey Bay, in the second round of the NCAA DII championships, who the Broncos would have to beat for a third time this season to progress in the tournament.
“Beating a team three times in a row is a very hard thing to do in sports,” Laguna said. “But if we can play how we did against them in the CCAA tournament, then we should be OK.”
In the end, the Broncos made quick work of the Otters, defeating them 4-1 to setup a rematch against Cal State LA for a chance to appear in the quarterfinals.
Feature image courtesy of the California Collegiate Athletic Association