Denver, Colo. - The San Jose State University men's soccer team allowed three unanswered first-half goals for a second straight match and dropped a 4-2 decision to UNLV in the opening game of the 2009 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament at University of Denver Soccer Stadium on Thursday, November 12.
San Jose State had overturned a 3-0 halftime deficit at Sacramento State in its regular season finale last Saturday afternoon, November 7, but though the Spartans struck for two late scores, that improbable task was not meant to be repeated on this day.
With a fourth consecutive defeat, third-seeded San Jose State concludes its 2009 season at 9-10-1 overall. The Spartans had posted back-to-back winning campaigns in 2007 and 2008 of 10-9 and 9-5-4, respectively. Sixth-seeded UNLV improves to 8-6-4, and will next face top-seeded regular-season champion Sacramento State (10-5-2) in Friday's first semifinal at 4:00 p.m. PST. UNLV had already beaten SJSU once this year, 1-0, in San Jose on October 30.
The Spartans conceded an early goal within the first 10 minutes of the opening whistle for a second match in a row, as junior forward Stephen Sifuentes stole the ball on the left side of the penalty area and scored his eighth of the year from about seven yards out with only 6:54 gone off the clock. Sacramento State had needed just 99 seconds to dent the scoreboard Saturday.
Sophomore Nicholas DeLeon's blast from approximately 35 yards out in the 25th minute was too high for sophomore goalkeeper Jonathan Lester to corral, for a 2-0 advantage. Freshman defender Taylor Bowlin was given an assist on the play.
Less than five minutes later, it was 3-0, as DeLeon assisted Nick Marshall, the freshman striker getting around a defender and finding the lower left corner for his eighth of 2009.
The Spartans produced the first corner kick by either side in the 24th minute, but did not register their first shot until the 27:26 mark, when Colby Moore's attempt was blocked by a defender. Justin Castro's headed effort generated the day's first save, by Roland Swanson at 34:20.
Fourth-year senior midfielder Nick Cukar had an opportunity to pull one back for San Jose State midway through the second half, but fired his shot high and wide to the left from 10 yards out.
UNLV upped its advantage moments later when freshman midfielder Roberto Farfan scored from Zach Kupfer's assist at 69:54.
Cukar was ultimately and fittingly the player to put the Spartans on the board, cleanly heading in a corner kick from junior midfielder and San Jose native Ricky Dorrego (Lincoln HS) at 75:16 for 4-1. It was his team-leading eighth of 2009 and 23rd and final strike of his college career. The assist was Dorrego's team-best sixth, all coming from set pieces, with five on corner kicks. San Jose State tallied at least 14 goals off dead-ball situations in 2009. This was the second time that Dorrego and Cukar teamed up for a score via a corner-kick header. Cukar had scored the winner in that manner at home against Sacramento State back on October 8.
Junior holding central midfielder Josh Boemecke, an All-MPSF honorable mention player for the second year running, capped the scoring at 84:01, with Moore assisting. Boemecke, a transfer from Saint Louis University, shot into the lower corner at the far post from the top of the area. The assist was the 14th and final one of Moore's stellar career.
Lester, a second-team All-MPSF selection in his first season in the program after a transfer from SMU, wound up with one save for San Jose State. Boemecke, Cukar and Moore shared the team high of three shots. The Spartans were narrowly out-shot, 17-14, but had 10 corner kicks, five in each half, to just one by the Rebels.
The game marked the final collegiate appearances for the Spartans' veteran quartet of Cukar, Moore, Brian McGuire and Oscar Monjaras. All four were All-MPSF performers in 2009, with Cukar a third-time selection, including back-to-back first-team nods, Moore a two-time second-teamer, and McGuire and Monjaras both first-time honorees this year. Cukar and Monjaras were co-captains. The foursome combined for 260 matches played, including 204 starts.
San Jose State scored its second goal despite playing with only 10 men for the final 7:38 of the contest, due to McGuire being issued his first career red card.
Swanson, a redshirt junior, needed to come up with just one stop for UNLV. Freshman midfielder Jonny Espinoza was credited with taking a game-high five shots. DeLeon, an All-MPSF honorable mention selection, and Marshall, added three apiece, with a game-high two on goal for DeLeon.
UNLV (8-6-4) - 3 1 - 4
San Jose State (9-10-1) - 0 2 - 2
UNLV - Stephen Sifuentes (8) (unassisted), 6:54
UNLV - Nicholas DeLeon (2) (Taylor Bowlin), 24:28
UNLV - Nick Marshall (8) (Nicholas DeLeon), 29:12
UNLV - Roberto Farfan (2) (Zach Kupfer), 69:54
SJSU - Nick Cukar (8) (Ricky Dorrego), 75:16
SJSU - Josh Boemecke (4) (Colby Moore), 84:01
UNLV - 17
SJSU - 14
UNLV - 1 (Roland Swanson-1)
SJSU - 1 (Jonathan Lester-1)
UNLV - 1
SJSU - 10
UNLV - 15
SJSU - 8