RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Cal State Fullerton senior Gerzon Blanco scored the "golden goal" game-winner with less then two minutes remaining in the second overtime period on Saturday night, giving the visiting Titans a much-needed, 3-2, victory over host UC Riverside in a key Big West Conference match-up at the UCR Soccer Stadium.
The victory gave Fullerton (6-10-1 overall, 2-4-1 in the Big West) three key points in the race for a spot in the Big West Tournament, moving the Titans past the Highlanders and into second place with seven points -- just one ahead of Riverside with six -- and three regular season matches remaining. Fullerton posted back-to-back wins for only the second time this season and completed a very offensive unbeaten weekend as the Titans combined for eight goals in their two victories over the Highlanders and nationally ranked Cal State Northridge after entering the contests with just three goals scored in their previous five matches combined.
UCR suffered its fourth defeat in its last five matches after a 4-1 win over UC Irvine on Wednesday, falling to 9-6 overall and 2-5 in conference play.
"Being 13 seconds from winning in regulation was a gut check but the boys weren't to be denied," Head Coach Bob Ammann said. "I thought we dominated both overtime periods and deserved to get the winner albeit late. We will use the week to get ourselves physically and mentally prepared for the re-match with Irvine next Saturday."
After Riverside struck for the game-tying goal with just 13 seconds remaining in regulation, Blanco's second goal of the season in the 109th minute sent the Titans home winners in their fourth overtime match of the year as UC Riverside headed the ball out of danger, but right to Mark Vasquez, who sent it back in for Blanco to redirect past the Highlanders' keeper to end the game.
Following a scoreless first half, senior Jameson Campbell, who scored the game-tying goal in a win over Cal State Northridge on Wednesday, put the Titans on the board first for only the fourth time this season in the 69th minute, netting his second of the year from the middle of the box off a cross by teammate Ian Ramos in the right corner for the 1-0 lead. Fullerton's advantage lasted just over a minute, however, as Riverside, which played catch-up all night, equalized in the 70th minute as Jimmy Martinez banged home a rebound off a shot by Eric Gonzalez that clanged off the post from 30 yards out to make it 1-1.
Ramos, who had a hat trick in the Titans' upset of Cal State Northridge, then scored his sixth goal of the year to make it a three-point night in the 86th minute, cashing in on his second penalty kick attempt of the season after a foul in the box against the Highlanders to regain the lead for Fullerton. However, unlike Wednesday's win over the Matadors, the Titans could not run out the clock fast enough as Riverside struck late to send it to overtime on a free kick from Gonzalez that found the head of teammate Hayden Leslie, who angled it home with just seconds remaining before the final horn to knot the match once again.
Cal State Fullerton outshot Riverside by a 21-19 count -- including a 7-1 advantage in the two overtime periods -- led by four shots apiece from Blanco, Ramos, Campbell, and Vasquez. Martinez led all players with five shots for the Highlanders. Junior Bryan Escalante earned his second-straight victory in net, making two saves on the night, while Ashkan Khosravi finished with six saves to keep his side in the match.
The Titans have only one match next week, hosting Orange County rival UC Irvine on Saturday night (Oct. 27) at 7 p.m. at Titan Stadium, looking to avenge a 2-1 loss to the Anteaters back on Oct. 13 in Irvine.