Nov. 13, 2010

CHICO, Calif. -

Courtesy of Cal State Chico Athletics

Zach Bradford's first goal of the season could not have come at a better time. The fourth-year senior rose to just high enough to allow Ferid Celosmanovic's free kick to skim off the top of his head and banana over the keeper in the seventh minute for what proved to be the game-winning goal as the Chico State men's soccer team defeated long-time rival Sonoma State 2-0 in an opening round game of the NCAA Championship Tournament West Regional Friday night at University Soccer Stadium.

Celosmanovic, the California Collegiate Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year, put the game away in the 83rd minute when he took Josh Johnson's feed, turned at the top of the box, and drilled a shot just inside the far post for this 13th tally of the season.

Chico State, seeded No. 1 in the West, faces No. 2 Grand Canyon Sunday at noon in the Regional Championship game. The winner will advance to the National Quarterfinals. If the Wildcats win, they'll host that game on Saturday, Nov. 20.

Sonoma State finished its season 14-6-0. The Seawolves collected four yellow cards and four red cards that severely hampered their comeback hopes. They played a man down beginning in the 51st minute and lost two more players in the 83rd minute. Celosmanovic's goal came 10 seconds later.

The Wildcats thrilled the crowd of 1,126 with first NCAA Championship Tournament win since 2003. That season, they advanced to the National Title game.

Chico State improved to 14-6-0 with the win. Sonoma State, perhaps the region's hottest team down the stretch, won last weekend's CCAA Championship Tournament, perhaps convincing the committee that they deserved a spot in the Regional.

"There was a great crowd and atmosphere," said Sonoma State Head Coach Marcus Ziemer. "We had a large contingent of alumni, family and friends. Our four seniors - Sosa, Brandon Dela Cruz, Ryan Hall and David Holleran -- will be missed. They have been warriors for us and have had great careers. I am glad that they won a CCAA championship this year because they deserve it."

Much questioning took place regarding whether the Wildcats deserved to play the host, or even be in the Tournament, for that matter.

The Wildcats believe they answered those questions loudly and clearly Friday night.

"I'm so proud of my team and happy for the guys," said Head Coach Felipe Restrepo. "We were the better team tonight."