Heartbreaking header costs the Seawolves a CCAA title

The nationally ranked No. 23 Sonoma State University women’s soccer team had three important matches this past week in hopes of securing a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Seawolves had an impressive season, with many ups and downs, as they finished the season with a 14-4-1 record. 

With each win, Sonoma State knew it was putting more and more on the line, but that never stopped it from playing the game and leaving everything it had on the field. The lineup for the CCAA tournament was strong and Sonoma State knew it needed to prove itself in order to advance. 

The Seawolves faced Cal Poly Pomona in the first round, Cal State LA in the semifinal, and UC San Diego in the CCAA final.

During the first round of the CCAA tournament, Sonoma State faced the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos. Last time the teams met during the regular season, the Broncos came out on top in a double overtime victory. This game was essential for both teams as they each had hopes of advancing to the next round. The Seawolves got on board first as Sarah Lindborg, sophomore forward, scored on a rebounded shot that had deflected off the upright in the 34th minute of the game. Cal Poly responded as the time was coming to a close in the first half as it tied the game off a free kick. It was crunch time for Sonoma State in the second half as it knocked home two consecutive goals to seal the victory (3-1) and advance to the semifinal game.

The Seawolves headed to La Jolla to face Cal State LA in the semifinal match. Both teams knew what to expect from each other due to playing two weeks ago where Sonoma State pulled out a 1-0 victory. The game was scoreless throughout most of the first half, until Lindborg headed the ball in from close range to give the Seawolves reassurance. Sonoma State’s defense was immaculate as it held Cal State LA to absolutely no shots on goal, where the Seawolves had 18 shots on goal throughout the game. Sonoma State showed how hungry it was to advance to the final round as it secured the win (2-0).

“We were all full of such exciting energy today on the field and it was a great performance to end the season. I wish it ended with a win, but I am excited to see how we continue into the postseason NCAA tournament,” senior forward Sara Van Wagoner said.

As Sonoma State advanced to the CCAA final game against the No.3 nationally ranked UC San Diego Tritons, everyone prepared for the game of the season that you’d expect from a championship match. This game went back and forth and came down to the very last minute of the match. UC San Diego opened up with the first goal with a header from a free kick. Sonoma State was resilient and scored back-to-back goals from Lindborg and Van Wagoner before the end of the half (2-1). The Tritons responded by opening up the second half with another header from a corner kick tying the game (2-2). One of Sonoma State’s top goal scorers, Alexis Espitia, contributed her eighth goal of the season, giving the Seawolves the advantage. Sonoma State felt confident, especially with how its defense and goalkeeper had performed in its recent games. Unfortunately for the Seawolves, they couldn’t hold on as UC San Diego scored two consecutive goals, with the game winner coming in the very last minute of the match (4-3).

“We will most likely make it into the NCAA tournament, which we will find out for sure tomorrow. But moving forward we know that set pieces were a weakness for us and we will work on that as a team. Other than that, today was a battle and at the end of the day it did not go our way,” junior midfielder Bella Amyx said.

The loss to UC San Diego was inevitably tough for the Seawolves, but they fought hard and should be nothing but proud of their efforts as a team. The Tritons played with pure excellence and the Seawolves were able to mirror their performance until the end of the match. Luckily for Sonoma State, the loss against UC San Diego did not dictate whether it would make it into the NCAA playoffs, and instead gave it a fighting chance at clinching a spot and continuing to play. Regardless of what the future holds for the Seawolves, it has been an exciting season for both the fans and the players, and viewers should expect nothing less moving forward. 

“As of right now, I have no plans of continuing to play after the tournament. It will be surreal being done with soccer, and I think I will figure out what is next after this chapter is finished. I am extremely blessed to have the experiences I had at SSU and I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Van Wagoner said.