Cal State Fullerton women’s soccer traveled to the Pepperdine University Waves’ gusty field for the NCAA tournament where it fell 1-0 after a heartbreaking goal in the final moments of the game.
“We have to congratulate our women for their effort, not just today but throughout the course of this season,” said Titans Head Coach Demian Brown. “You take teams like Pepperdine and Cal State Fullerton and this is the type of game you get.”
In what would ultimately be the Titans’ final match of the 2017 season, the team was unable to force shots while losing possession throughout the first half, resulting in no shot attempts for CSUF while Pepperdine fired six at Titans goalkeeper Morgan Bertsch.
Returning for the second half, the short break allowed the Titans to regroup. Shortly after, they attempted their first shot of the match.
“We made our adjustments at halftime and came out even better,” Bertsch said.
Fullerton finally showed its presence on the field by forcing set pieces through the midfield up to the forwards but fell short in every attempt.
“If we had the right ball and the right movement, we can definitely find ourselves getting behind their backline,” Brown said. “I wanted us to push and be a little more aggressive.”
Titans forward Hailey Pohevitz found herself at the tip of one of the closest finishes to the set piece. After receiving the ball from her midfield, she found herself bypassing two Waves defenders and slipping the ball under goalkeeper Brielle Preece.
In the cluster of players, the ball was lost and headed into the goal. As Pepperdine rushed to clear the ball, Pohevitz tried to retrieve possession but dropped it and no foul was called.
This unmarked foul not only riled up the Titans’ fans, but Fullerton’s athletes and coaches as well. The building frustration resulted in a physical match in which Fullerton fouled its opponent nine times while Pepperdine was whistled for 10.
The second half resembled a pinball game with the ball being passed back and forth between the teams, but once Pepperdine gained possession, it took every opportunity it had.
“It was just another one of those games for us this year where we didn’t finish opportunities that we had and the one quality one they had they did finish it. I can’t be upset with the team, I couldn’t be anymore proud,” Bertsch said.
Pepperdine mustered 14 shots and in the 87th minute pushed that number to 15 with a goal. Waves midfielder Bri Visalli found an open gap in the top corner of the net outside Bertsch’s reach.
“Emotions kind of hit everyone,” Bertsch said. “When that last whistle blew, it just all hit me. I just didn’t want to end playing with these girls. I love this team so much and I’m so, so proud of them.”
Not showing any sign of a comeback, the Titans’ loss was their final defeat of the 2017 season.
“It was a season of adversity,” Brown said. “For our women to adapt and change with all the things we had to go through and come out the way that we did as Big West champions is just phenomenal.”
Fullerton’s seniors finished their collegiate career with three appearances in the NCAA tournament, hoping they’ve impacted the culture of CSUF women’s soccer and left a piece of their legacy for the new teams to come.
Goalkeeper coach Bryan Escalante looks at the loss as a time to come together as a team and recognize the legacies left by the seniors. The Titans also hope the match served as a reminder of what CSUF can achieve and that the next group can take Fullerton even further.
“This is the first step toward the future,” Escalante said. “We’re excited for what’s next. We have a great team that’s ready to do big things in the following year.”