UCLA’s soccer game Sunday afternoon with Duke can be filed under, “It had to happen.”
The Bruins billed the game as a showdown between UCLA’s Paul Caligiuri and Duke’s John Kerr to determine the winner of the Hermann Award, college soccer’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
But wouldn’t you know it, freshman Ray Fernandez stole the show, scoring two goals to lead UCLA to a 3-0 win over Duke in the championship game of the UCLA/Metropolitan Life Pacific soccer tournament at UCLA.
The defending NCAA champion Bruins (13-0-5), ranked fourth in the nation, increased their unbeaten streak to 36 games. Duke (12-5-1) is ranked seventh.
“I really wasn’t thinking about the Paul Caligiuri-John Kerr duel,” Fernandez said. “I just wanted to help the team.”
Fernandez, from Torrance High, didn’t start, entering the game with six minutes left in the first half. Until then, UCLA dominated play, outshooting Duke, 11-2, but the Bruins were unable to score.
Fernandez almost ended the frustration, but instead added to it with a minute to play in the first half. From in front of the goal, Fernandez drilled a shot that Blue Devil goalie Mark Dodd barely tipped over the crossbar.
UCLA finally broke through five minutes into the second half when Fernandez kicked a ball off the crossbar and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
Fernandez came back 21 minutes later with his second goal, a shot from the right corner that barely made it over the outstretched arms of Dodd and into the left corner. The goals doubled Fernandez’ output for the season.
Nick Skvarna added UCLA’s final goal with five minutes to play.
As for the “duel” between Caligiuri, a defenseman, and Kerr, leading scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it never really materialized. Caligiuri shared defensive duties on Kerr with Eric Biefeld, and the two combined to limit him to only two shots.
“A lot of times Paul would be on me,” Kerr said. “And if he were going upfield he would tell Eric to cover me.
“It was hard to get upfield.”
So who won the showdown? Since Caligiuri’s team won convincingly, he would seem to have the edge, although he refused to claim victory, saying personal awards come second.
Caligiuri’s coach, though, hinted that he thinks his player deserves it.
“Caligiuri shuts down the people he has to shut down,” UCLA Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think he’s the best player in the country.
“I think the award belongs on the West Coast this year.”
The Hermann Award hasn’t been won by a West Coast player since Manny Hernandez of San Jose State won it in 1968. Duke players have won the award three of the last four years.