Women's Soccer: Seattle Pacific Beats BYU-Hawaii 1-0
SPU's Heather Young (in action earlier this season against Western Oregon) scored the game-winner Thursday.
SPU's Heather Young (in action earlier this season against Western Oregon) scored the game-winner Thursday.

Friday, November 9, 2012

NCAA West Regionals (Nov. 8-11): Thursday (at LaJolla, CA) - #3 Seattle Pacific 1, #6 BYU-Hawaii 0. Friday (at Rohnert Park) - #4 Cal Poly Pomona (10-5-3)vs. #5 Western Washington (17-3-0), 2 p.m. Saturday (at LaJolla, CA): #6/3 winner vs. #2 UC San Diego (14-2-3), 6 p.m.  Sunday (at Rohnert Park) - #4/5 winner vs. #1 Sonoma State (16-2-2), 1 p.m.

LA JOLLA, Calif - After successfully playing the favorite’s role, Seattle Pacific coach Chuck Sekyra is anxious to act as a challenger for a change.

Sophomore forward Heather Young netted the lone goal early in the first half Thursday and the defense made it stand as the third-seeded Seattle Pacific women got a 1-0 opening-round victory over No. 6 seed BYU-Hawaii in the NCAA Division II Soccer Tournament.

The regional continues today at Rohnert Park with fourth-see3d Cal Poly Pomona taking on GNAC champion Western Washington.  Kickoff is at 2 p.m.

SPU (15-3-2) advances to a second-round meeting with host and No. 2 seed UC San Diego (14-2-3). That West Region semifinal game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday at the same Triton Soccer Stadium venue where Thursday’s first-round game took place.

“I’m excited to play San Diego. We are the underdogs and there are not many times that my players get a chance to be an underdog, so we are going to go after them,” Sekyra said. “I just want my players to go out and give themselves every chance they have to go on.”

Saturday’s matchup marks the fifth time the West Coast powerhouses will clash in NCAA Tournament play and the fourth time in the second round. They are both former national champions as SPU won in 2008 and the Tritons claimed back-to-back crowns in 2000 and 2001.

The teams split the previous playoff encounters. The Tritons were 1-0 victors over SPU in the 2010 West Region championship game in Austin, Texas. The Falcons won a 3-1 decision in Seattle during the second round of the 2008 playoffs. UCSD took a 3-0 second-round decision at La Jolla in 2006 following SPU’s 2-0 home victory in 2005, also in the second round.

“We’re going to have to be very efficient. They are a very efficient team and we can be,” Sekyra said about UC San Diego. “They are a great team and I respect the heck out of that program. But just because they are the higher seed and it’s on their field doesn’t mean we don’t have a right to this game.”

SPU reached the second round by eliminating the Seasiders from the tournament.

The Falcons pressured the BYU goal early, getting a shot from Ali Martin just 45 seconds into the contest. Less than one minute before the game’s only goal, SPU’s Annie Thomas cracked a shot off the crossbar.

Freshman Laura Moore initiated the scoring play with a pass from the left side toward the top of the 18-yard box. Young collected the ball and delivered a looping 25-yard shot that carried over Seasiders goalkeeper Megan McCain and into the center of the goal at 12:03.

“Heather played well today. She had a lot of energy, was very assertive and aggressive. She definitely made a difference out there,” Sekyra said.

That was the sixth goal of the season for Young (Lacombe, Alberta) and her third game-winning strike.

The Falcons compiled a 22-11 shot advantage, including a 12-4 margin during the first half.

SPU junior goalkeeper Natalie Harold (Vancouver, Wash./Heritage HS) stopped five shots en route to her fourth shutout. The team has blanked eight opponents this season.

“We defended well and really limited how many chances they had,” Sekyra described. “Our back line played well and our midfield defended well. They were organized and didn’t really give the other team much space to play.”

Pacific West Conference champion BYU-Hawaii (10-5-3) got eight saves from McCain.

“Any win in the NCAA Tournament is a good win,” said Sekyra, who thought his team might add an insurance goal or two. “We had our chances. Their keeper is good, one of the better keepers in the country.”

The Falcons are making their 10th consecutive postseason appearance, all of them under Sekyra.

Since suffering a first-round setback in their inaugural entry in 2003, they have not lost in their last nine playoff openers. SPU won its first NCAA game in seven seasons and tied two others that were decided by penalty kick tiebreakers.

Despite having to play a 90-minute game while UC San Diego rested with a first-round bye, Sekyra sees a benefit to having played already.

“The NCAA Tournament is not an easy thing. It’s an atmosphere that’s winner-go-home so there’s pressure on you. You don’t want your season to end. That can cause anxiety and nerves.

“It’s nice to get a win under our belt to settle us down and also to know that we can win on that field. That’s what I’m going to emphasize, that we already won on that field so we can do it again.”