LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Kramer Runager headed home the winning goal in the 63rd minute to send Chico State into the second round of the NCAA tournament with a 1-0 win against long-standing rival Seattle Pacific on Thursday afternoon on the campus of UC San Diego.
The Wildcats will take on UC San Diego on Saturday with a spot in the round of 16 on the line.
Goalkeeper Sam Evans, a native of Snoqualmie, Wash., matched his career high with five saves and set a Chico State record with his 23rd career shutout.
“When we recruited Sam we felt like he had the potential to be a game changer,” Wildcats head coach Felipe Restrepo said. “Over the course of his career, and especially this season, he’s shown flashes of that. But today was the biggest game of his career.
“For me, the most satisfying part is that no one works harder than Sam. He’s a type-A guy. He just works harder then everybody else and that has made him a better goalkeeper not just from his freshman year to his senior year, but even from the start of this season to now. You see constant improvement.”
Tyson Crim won a ball at midfield and delivered it to Octavio Guzman to set up the winning goal. Guzman angled a pass to put Luis Martinez in space down the left sideline. Martinez cracked a cross that got just over the boot of a defender and curled right to the top of the six-yard box. After racing to the spot Runager rose, splitting two defenders, and deposited the ball about two feet inside the far post.
“It started out as a little combo between myself, Tavo and Tyson,” Martinez, who notched his 13th career assist, said. “I just crossed it in for Kramer and he got on the end of it.”
Guzman also received credit for an assist, giving him 15 and tying him with Crim and three others for the 10th most helpers in school history.
The Falcons piled up six shots in the final 20 minutes, but Evans made a pair of saves and other attempts were just off the mark.
Evans popped a flicked header just over the crossbar in the 88th minute and then the Falcons misfired on a free kick from 25 yards with four seconds to play, ending the match.
Evans made a last-minute save of a header off a corner kick two minutes into the second half to keep Seattle Pacific scoreless.
“I saw that it was a good cross and I just dropped back to my line,” Evans said. “I lost sight of it in the crowd in front for a moment. But then it reappeared and I saw their player get a head on it and I just got a hand on it and hit it wide.”
Runager scored 15 minutes later, and the Wildcats are headed to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the ninth time in the program’s history and second time in the last four seasons.
The Tritons took two of three meetings between the teams in the regular season, though all were tightly-contested affairs.