Men’s soccer drops final home game in 1-0 loss to UCLA

Freshman+midfielder+Blake+Bowen+pushes+the+ball+up+the+field+during+the+Aztecs%27+1-0+loss+to+UCLA+on+Nov.+16+at+the+SDSU+Sports+Deck.
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Men’s soccer drops final home game in 1-0 loss to UCLA

Freshman midfielder Blake Bowen pushes the ball up the field during the Aztecs' 1-0 loss to UCLA on Nov. 16 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

Freshman midfielder Blake Bowen pushes the ball up the field during the Aztecs' 1-0 loss to UCLA on Nov. 16 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

Luis Lopez

Freshman midfielder Blake Bowen pushes the ball up the field during the Aztecs' 1-0 loss to UCLA on Nov. 16 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

Luis Lopez

Luis Lopez

Freshman midfielder Blake Bowen pushes the ball up the field during the Aztecs' 1-0 loss to UCLA on Nov. 16 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

by Cristian Alvarez, Staff Writer

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In college soccer, it’s a rare occurrence when the starting 11 consists of all seniors, but that’s exactly what San Diego State men’s soccer had against UCLA.

It was just the second time in head coach Lev Kirshner’s 20 seasons that he’s had enough seniority on the team to fill in every position for a match.

Kirshner said it was only fitting to grant his seniors one last start to play together.

“So proud of my seniors tonight,” Kirshner said. “The effort was phenomenal and the energy was outstanding. That starting 11 came out playing with everything they had and it was special.”

The Aztecs (4-12-2, 1-9 Pac-12) were battling it out until the 88th minute when UCLA midfielder Cody Sundquist scored off a cross inside the box, stealing a road win for the Bruins (6-9-3, 2-6-2 Pac-12) on Nov. 16 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

The Scarlet and Black had previously beaten the Bruins in back-to-back season finales.

Despite the loss for the Aztecs, Kirshner said honoring the seniors is what mattered most.

“There’s been a lot of history between us,” Kirshner said. “We’ve cried together, we’ve smiled together and pulled off some of the biggest victories in program history. I had a lot of tears knowing this was the final game with them.”

It’s a unique thing in collegiate sports when coaches have the opportunity to develop players.

While smirking a grin and holding back tears, Kirshner said having the privilege to coach young players is something he wouldn’t give up for the world.

“I get to watch these kids come in with runny noses and come out with hair on their upper lip. They enter college thinking they’re adults and learn to walk out of here as men,” Kirshner said. “I prepare them to face this world and handle anything because they had to play for me the past four years, and that’s not easy.”

Kirshner wears a band on his wrist that reads “one team, one family,” symbolizing the culture instilled in the program. It serves as an homage to the iconic “Aztec for Life” saying at SDSU.

Players recognize their bonds go beyond their Aztec playing days.

“I’m here for them for the rest of their lives,” Kirshner said.“This was a hard loss, but at the end of the day, watching players hug each other is what matters. They’ll forget about how this game ended, but they’ll never forget each other.”

Senior goalkeeper Max Watkin, who recorded four saves in the match including a penalty stop in the 30th minute, said it was an honor playing alongside his senior teammates.

“I’m grateful getting to play with such an amazing group of guys,” Watkin said. “(Kirshner) says that all games matter but some games matter more. This game was about putting on a performance to make ourselves proud.”

During his five years in the program, Watkin said he took away many valuable lessons – especially from losses.

“The negatives teach you the most,” Watkin said. “When things don’t go the way you don’t want them to is when you learn. You’ll carry those things for the rest of your life.”

Senior midfielder Adam Vargas said it was hard to describe what it meant to go out on the pitch one last time.

“It’s just a feeling you can’t put into words of having all the seniors together,” Vargas said.

With the season coming to a close, Vargas added he appreciated the support from the San Diego community.

“We’d like to thank everyone for coming out to every game,” Vargas said. “It’s nice knowing you have people who are rooting for you. A couple years from now, I’ll look back and realize how special this was.”

 

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