California and Pac-12 steal headlines in Week 1

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Cal’s Connor Hallisey, courtesy of Cal Athletics

Unranked California opened the college soccer season in style with a Beltway beatdown of No. 3 Georgetown and No. 2 Maryland in a weekend that also saw another Pac-12 team, UCLA, dispatch of the defending national champions in front of a record crowd on the road.

California took care of last year’s College Cup finalists Georgetown with ease on Friday, winning 2-0, and scored a dramatic game-winner in overtime on Sunday to beat defending player of the year Patrick Mullins and the 2012 College Cup semifinalist Terrapins. Mullins didn’t even manage a shot against a defense anchored by fifth year senior Steve Birnbaum, who also scored for the second consecutive game.

Maryland would have come up empty-handed on their West Coast trip if not for a last ditch comeback in a game they ended up drawing 3-3 with Stanford on Friday. The same Cardinal team played Georgetown much closer than the 2-0 final scoreline suggested with Steve Neumann scoring his second against the run of play in the 88th minute when 10-man Stanford was pushing for an equalizer.

But none of the results from the weekend seemed as improbable, given the circumstances, as UCLA’s win over the defending national champions. Playing in front of a record crowd of 7,720 at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, the Bruins managed to not only survive a penalty kick and playing a man down, but stole a victory in overtime. Bruin captain Joe Sofia was sent off for taking down Tommy Thompson in the box in the 76th minute but Dylan Mares, a Louisville transfer playing his first match for the Hoosiers, blew the golden opportunity when his penalty kick went softly into the hands of Earl Edwards.

Despite heavy pressure and clever play from Hoosier senior A.J. Corrodo, the Bruins survived to overtime and stunned the crowd just 46 seconds in when Victor Chavez danced around Michael Soderlund to bury the winner. The opening weekend also saw Pac-12 teams Washington (1-0 over Gonzaga) and Oregon State (3-0 over Cleveland State and 2-0 over UC Davis) notch victories and made a case, for the time being anyway, of an east coast bias in soccer.

If California were the undisputed team of week 1, UAB were probably a close second with an offensive outburst that included a 4-0 drubbing on the road of a solid VCU (ranked 24th in the preseason coaches poll) and a 5-1 victory over Big South foe High Point. The performance was enough to move them to No. 1 in the BennettRank poll.

No. 11 New Mexico also deserve recognition for dropping 7 goals on Villanova in their season opener to kickstart their season and No. 6 Creighton also had a stellar start to the year with a 2-0 win over No. 14 Tulsa and 3-0 win over Cal Poly. Fourth-ranked North Carolina needed overtime to beat Monmouth on Friday but had no trouble beating Pedro Ribeiro and No. 13 Coastal Carolina with a 4-0 scoreline in a makeup game on Monday.

Coastal Carolina outlasted No. 17 Wake Forest 1-0 on Friday in one of five weekend match-ups of ranked teams. 10th-ranked Louisville edged No. 25 Virginia 2-1 on Friday in a game that was a good showcase for the kind of talent on display in the college ranks this year. Marquette had the national attention and the No. 12 ranking going into the weekend, but their bragging rights close to home were brought into serious doubt with a 2-1 loss to Milwaukee and a 3-3 draw with Green Bay on Sunday.

In other opening weekend action, UMBC’s senior forward Peter Caringi III picked up right where he left off from his summer stint with the USL PDL’s Baltimore Bohemians. The Golden Boot winner for the PDL bagged braces in wins over Seattle and UNLV. UC Santa Barbara senior midfielder Goffin Boyoko also had people talking with his two-goal performance in the Gauchos 3-1 win over No. 19 Northwestern.

On the coaching front, the Jared Embick era began in Akron with a pair of victories over College of Charleston and Furman, but no coach had a wider smile on his face or the on-camera TV time Cal’s Kevin Grimes had, deservedly so for a dream start to a season for his team and his conference.

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