November 8, 2022

Highlanders one win away from Men's Soccer Championship bid

UCR faces UC Santa Barbara in the conference title game.

Author: UCR News
November 8, 2022

The UC Riverside Highlanders will host the Big West Championship final on Saturday against UC Santa Barbara, with the opportunity to win their second conference title in four years. 

One more win for the top-seeded Highlanders and they will earn an automatic bid into the 2022 NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship. UCR won its first regular season Big West conference title this year.

The match begins at 7 p.m. from UC Riverside Soccer Stadium and will be broadcast on ESPN+. Tickets can be purchased on the Highlanders website.

UC Riverside punched its ticket to the conference final with a 4-1 win over CSUN. 

It was the fourth four-goal game of the year for the Highlanders on the most crucial of stages, but the focus swiftly changed to conference final for UCR head coach Tim Cupello. 

"One step closer is the key, but the job is not finished," said Cupello, who was named the first Big West Coach of the Year in UCR program history. "We have to focus on our recovery and start preparing for our next match. Thank you to the fans who came out. We love playing in front of an exciting and energetic home crowd."

UC Riverside came out aggressive in the opening portion of the semifinal matchup with Noah Lopez chipping the goalkeeper in the fifth minute on the assist from Adrian Meade-Tatum.

Leopoldo Hernandez rocketed a shot off the keeper's mitts a few minutes later from point blank in the box. 

Hernandez was at it again in the 15th minute, sliding a ball to Andrew Alexander before the cross into the middle rolled all the way to the opposite sideline. 

Carlos Gonzalez was forced to come off his line in the 20th minute as CSUN looked to equalize, but the Big West Co-Goalkeeper of the Year beat his defender and was able to clear the danger.

Oscar Penate played it into Aleksander Vukovic quickly with an unsuccessful chance at the near post before the Matadors had a near goal of their own in the 23rd minute. 

Issa Badawiya got by his defender but was unable to put the finishing touches on the insurance goal in the 28th minute before Penate clipped the right post in the 37th minute. CSUN found an equalizer near the end of the first half, but UCR ended up bookending the first half with goals in the first and last five minutes as Armando Ibarra found the back of the net for his first Highlander goal. 

Brendan Clark gave UCR much needed insurance in the 78th minute on a goal from Hernandez before CSUN went down a man with a red card a minute later. 

Ibarra put the cherry on top in the 89th minute, notching goal number four on the night to punch UCR's ticket to the Big West Championship final. 

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