LA JOLLA, Calif. — Chico State head coach Kim Sutton is a softie. Her players and assistant coaches poke fun at her, claiming that she cries after every win. But the tears that welled in her eyes following Sunday’s 1-0 win at UC San Diego were no ordinary tears. This was no ordinary win.
With the first outright NCAA tournament victory, the Wildcats moved past the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program’s history. They also earned their first postseason victory against UC San Diego in four tries.
“We just kept telling them, ‘It’s our time,’ ” Sutton said. “It’s our time.”
Now, one week after Sutton and her team gathered around a computer anxiously hoping to hear their named called during last Sunday’s selection show, the Wildcats are hoping to gather around an NCAA West Region championship trophy next Friday after they play at Cal State L.A. for that crown.
Sutton may be a softie. But her team was anything but soft on Sunday.
The Wildcats’ physical brand of play frustrated the top-seeded hosts and helped keep them off the scoreboard for just the fifth time this season. Two of those goose-eggs are courtesy of the Wildcats.
True freshman goalkeeper Brianna Furner made five saves and punched away a number of dangerous crosses, collecting her eighth shutout of the season. Sixteen different Wildcats logged seven minutes or more, and each and every one contributed to the defensive dominance.
“Talk about a team effort,” Sutton said. “Our defense has been very good this season, but that’s the best I’ve seen us defend as a complete unit.”
Even senior striker Lisa Webster got into the act, tracking back and disrupting the Tritons’ offense. But her biggest contribution came on the team’s lone goal. Freshman Megan Tabler had the assist.
Immediately after entering the match, Tabler took control of a loose ball near midfield, weaved around a defender and then threaded a pass to Webster making a run from the right flank toward the right post. Webster turned on the jets to beat the goalkeeper to the ball with a slide, and slammed a shot into the vacated net in the 24th minute, a mere 33 seconds after Tabler entered the match.
“I saw Megan look up at that gap in the defense and I got on my horse, hoping she was thinking the same thing I was,” Webster said. “It was a perfect ball she sent through. I saw the goalkeeper coming at me so I knew I needed to put it in the left corner.”
She did just that, and in the process matched Brenda Bell (1984-86) for the eighth most goals Chico State history. Webster was already tied for third in career goals and sixth in career points.
That turned out to be the Wildcats’ only shot on goal. But it was the only one they needed.
Furner played like a seasoned veteran early on to keep the match scoreless. She saved a point-blank shot at the near post in the 10th minute and punched away numerous dangerous serves in heavy traffic.
She made another solid save in the 55th minute, popping an Anne Wethe rocket up and over the top of the bar. In the 75th minute she saved a shot off a corner kick, deflecting it off the post.
The Wildcats nearly made it 2-0 in the 68th minute, but Denni Jo Berger’s try from just in front of the post slid just wide.
Chico State improved to 12-6-4 with its second consecutive upset victory in the NCAA tournament. The fifth-seeded Wildcats knocked off fourth-seeded Cal State Stanislaus in a shootout on Friday .
UC San Diego, which played in the national title match last season, saw its season end at 13-3-4.