The San Diego State men’s soccer team, ranked fifth nationally, entered its match against 11th-ranked Santa Clara Sunday looking for Coach Chuck Clegg’s 100th career victory and a chance to solidify its No. 2 ranking in the West Region.
Instead, the Aztecs could managed only a scoreless overtime tie in front of 582 in Aztec Bowl.
The tie sets up a bigger match for SDSU, which will travel to play UCLA in its final regular-season match Nov. 6.
UCLA beat the Aztecs, 3-1, last season and knocked SDSU from second to fifth in the West. SDSU barely made the NCAA tournament, being the last team selected.
The Aztecs managed to reach the NCAA finals by winning all their tournament matches on the road before losing to host Clemson in the championship game.
Even if the Aztecs make the NCAA tournament as the top-seeded team in the West, they are assured of playing on the road again this year.
The reason is the Aztec Bowl. Used for countless intramural events, practices and by students, Aztec Bowl has been worn to bare dirt.
And at times Sunday, the field proved to be tougher for the Aztecs to handle than Santa Clara.
“We had our chances, but you’re playing in dirt and mud,” Clegg said. “And it favors the defense. It’s easier to destroy than it is to create.”
SDSU (14-2-3) had several good opportunities. Santa Clara (10-2-5) had only one real chance, when Steve Robertson split the defenders and went one-on-one with Aztec goalkeeper Bryan Finnerty with 3:30 left in the first half.
Robertson’s shot bounced off Finnerty’s hand, hit under the crossbar and went straight down in front of the goal line before Finnerty knocked the ball away.
“They are the hardest-playing team for 90 minutes we’ll see this year,” Clegg said. “No team has scored more than 1 goal against them all year.”
Jeff Betts had the best shot for the Aztecs, but he missed a header off a corner kick early in the second half. Kyle Whittemore also had a solid chance to score in the second half, but his header on the right side of goal was wide.
Clegg will try again for his 100th victory Friday when the Aztecs play host to Loyola Marymount at 7:30 p.m. Clegg is 99-36-15 in 7 seasons at SDSU.
SDSU tied a school record for shutouts in a season with 13, which was set last year. Finnerty set the school mark for shutouts in a season with 8.5, breaking the record of 8 held by Garry Wilcox in 1985.