Box Score (PDF)
Post Game Quotes (PDF)
IRVINE, Calif. – The Cal State Fullerton men's soccer team won the Big West Tournament Championship Saturday night with a 3-2 victory in penalty kicks over UC Irvine at Anteater Stadium behind an MVP-worthy performance by Titan goalkeeper Jeff Salt.
After earning the Big West Tournament Championship and the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, the Titans will now move on to the tournament for the seventh time in school history, and the first time since the 2000. Fullerton will find out who it will be facing in the opening round on Monday at 10:00 a.m. when the NCAA Tournament selection show begins on NCAA.com.
After 110 minutes of scoreless play was put in the books, the Anteaters sent Gor Kirakosyan to the penalty spot to face off against Salt in the first round of penalty kicks. The 6-foot-6 keeper set the tone early for the Titans with a diving save to his right. Mark Fenelus followed with a goal for the Titans, shooting it past UCI keeper Michael Breslin to put the Titans up by one.
Next up was Mats Bjurman who powered a shot over the outstretched hand of Salt. CSF's Ian Ramos was then denied by Breslin to ignite the UC Irvine fans and pull the Anteaters all square at 1-1 through two rounds of penalties.
Salt quickly gave the Titans the momentum back, stopping Matt Tilley on the next shot on another diving save to his right.
A pair of goals by CSF's Robert Coronado and UCI's Cameron Iwasa made the score even at 2-2, and set up the final pairing of the night. A successful shot past Breslin by Julian Okai forced the 'Eaters Mario Ortiz into a do-or-die scenario, either make the shot or lose the title. The moment Ortiz's shot hit the left post and bounced away from the net, the Titans knew they had won 3-2, and were Big West Conference Tournament Champions.
The game was fast paced from the very beginning as each team used breaks to catch the opposing defenses by surprise. Neither team could find the back of the net, however, with the score 0-0 going into the halftime break. Fullerton would hold the lead in shots in the first half, 8-5, but UC Irvine was ahead in corner kick opportunities 3-0.
The second half was dominated statistically by the Anteaters; they outshot the Titans 10-4 and held a 4-1 lead in corner kicks. But Salt's three saves in the final 45 minutes of regulation gave the Titans a chance to catch their breath and regroup going into the overtime periods.
The best chance for both teams came just minutes into the start of the first overtime period, when Ramos received a cross into the middle of the UCI box and found himself all alone against Breslin. Ramos' volley sailed over the net to the delight of the UC Irvine faithful, and the game went on into double overtime, followed by penalty kicks.
Salt was named the Big West Tournament MVP after compiling a three-game tournament winning streak, two shutouts, and a three-save performance in the penalty kicks to win the Championship against UC Irvine.
Notes: This is the first Big West Conference Tournament Championship in Fullerton men's soccer history…Fullerton will make it to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in school history, with the last appearance coming in the 2000 season…The shutout of UC Irvine Saturday night gave the 2014 Titans a total of nine on the season, that puts them in a tie for first place in the school record books for shutouts in a single season…The win in penalty kicks for the Titans is the first time in Big West Conference Tournament history that the Championship game was decided on penalty kicks…Tonight's game was only the second time in Big West Conference Tournament history that a game had gone into penalty kicks, the other game to do so was the 2008 semifinal match between UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly…Junior CSF goalkeeper Jeff Salt is now stopped seven-of-eleven penalty kicks he has faced this season…Fullerton's all-time series record against UC Irvine now moves to 19-24-8…Titan head coach George Kuntz now has an 11-1 record in Big West Conference Tournament play, including 8-1 in his time at UC Irvine, and now 3-0 at Fullerton…The last Big West Conference Tournament Kuntz lost was in 2010, when his UC Irvine Anteaters lost to none other than the Titans…This is Kuntz's fifth Big West Conference Championship, four with UCI and his first with Cal State Fullerton.