Seventeen seconds was all that stood between the Gators’ regulation win and overtime in SF State’s victorious 1-0 effort over the visiting Cal State San Marcos Cougars last Friday.
After a two-goal effort over Cal State Dominguez Hills on Sunday, Sept. 30, Gators sophomore forward Clayton Sato stayed hot, drilling in a game-winner with less than 20 seconds left on the clock.
“We were just trying to get the last push,” Sato said about the attack that set up his game-winning goal. “I just felt it, hit and swing at the ball, and it went in.”
Throughout the last two games, Sato felt his confidence growing.
“I felt good about myself. I knew that I could potentially get one (goal) this game,” Sato said.
Sato was not the only Gator to continue with their hot-hand. Sophomore goalkeeper Peter Swinkels shut down his third straight offense while getting his seventh shutout of the season.
“This is my first full season on the team; it’s been going really well,” Swinkels said, while also praising his team’s overall defensive effort. “Defensively, we’ve been fantastic and games like these I don’t really have to do too much, which makes my life a lot easier.”
While Swinkels and the Gators defense earned yet another shutout, the game started out rocky.
The Gators dodged an early hole when a Cougars goal was called back by an offside, followed by a missed pass that stretched far off Swinkels. The pass would have given a Cougars empty net space for an easy kick-in.
The early Cal State San Marcos scoring chances were generated by their very aggressive early forward pressure.
Their assertive style was a bit too aggressive to keep up for an entire half. After the early push, the Cougars slowed their approach, generating only a single shot for the entire half.
The Gators started to mount more of their offense as the half went on, getting eight shots before the half was over.
The second half was more of the same, as the SF State offense dominated with eight shots, while dismantling the Cougars offense, holding them to only one more shot.
While the Gators definitely had their share of shots, constant game stoppages and a flurry of nine total yellow cards did not allow either squad to gain any sort of momentum.
“I think that some of the cautions were a little bit unnecessary, but it’s part of the game,” said SF State head coach Javier Ayala-Hil. “We can’t pick and choose what is gonna happen.”
Although the Gators dominated the box score in shots and corner kicks, these stoppages killed many offensive attacks from both teams and led to a scoreless tie late in the game.
No matter how it happened, the Gators’ win lifted them over the Cougars in CCAA standings, leaving them tied with No. 9 nationally ranked UC San Diego.
“Any points you can get, the better, especially when you’re at home,” Ayala-Hil said about the importance of winning games, now that the Gators are in a playoff push.
SF State will host UC San Diego in an Eleven Sports nationally televised game at Cox Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 7.
A win against UC San Diego will create some much needed separation for the Gators in the CCAA playoff race, but ranked No. 9 in the nation, the Tritons will provide a real challenge in front of the Gators’ home crowd.