SDSU men’s soccer honors five seniors in season finale at home against UCLA

The Aztecs lose their season finale but celebrate graduating seniors in front of families and fans.

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Sophia O'Dell

Senior midfielder Blake Bowen protects the ball from a pair of UCLA defenders on Nov. 11.

by Jake Enrico, Staff Writer

In what was a bittersweet end to their 2022 season, the San Diego State men’s soccer team lost 2-1 on their senior night in a brisk Friday night at home against the UCLA Bruins. SDSU waved goodbye to five seniors, sending them off by honoring them with many of the players’ family and friends in attendance. 

SDSU’s Blake Bowen, Jacob Castro, Arturo Chavez, Kyle Colonna, and Esteban Zepada were among those honored Friday and each have impacted the program immensely over the past few seasons. The group have accumulated 222 matches and 144 starts together including two four year starters in Bowen and Colonna. 

Building a culture and dealing with adversity has been an emphasis all season for the Aztecs and head coach Ryan Hopkins made it clear that many times they have had to rely on their seniors in desperate times to create that culture. 

“What I always say to the guys is that cultures grow great when you plant trees whose shade you’ll never see,” Hopkins said. “I think the seniors have done that and when we get to the final four, I’ll be thinking of those guys for sure.”  

The Bruins struck first as sophomore midfielder Tucker Lepley hit a powerful shot in the upper right corner past Castro in the 52nd minute. Just three minutes later freshman CJ Fodrey, the team’s leading goal scorer, finished a corner kick to equalize for the Aztecs 1-1. Bruin junior forward Andre Ochoa sealed the win 2-1 for UCLA by putting the ball into the bottom right corner of SDSU’s goal. 

Despite losing to end their season, the Aztecs left everything out on the field. The team was playing for their seniors and intensity was never lacking from SDSU. They outshot the Bruins 18-10 and had many opportunities all game in the final third. They just fell short but their heads remained high.

“Just so proud of the performance, not easy when you’re mathematically eliminated to come out here against a really good UCLA team and put on that performance,” Hopkins said. “I give a lot of credit to the seniors, they’ve shown us the way, I just couldn’t be more proud how we went about our business.”

Colonna, 2022 captain for the Aztecs, has been a four-year starter for SDSU and played over 4,000 minutes in his career. He leaves the school not ending his season how he hoped but still thankful for the opportunity and success in the Scarlet and Black. 

“When I look back at it, you see, this has been a part of my life for so long,” Colonna said. “It definitely is emotional to feel that I am leaving this family. It definitely started to hit me towards the end of the season. I’m very thankful for the relationships that I’ve been able to create and that’s something I’ll be able to have for the rest of my life.”

From his first goal back in 2019 to captaining the Aztecs this year, Colonna’s presence in defense will be missed and his leadership is one to be passed on to the younger members of the squad for the future.

“When you see your senior captain and senior leaders leading by example, that’s where you see the results,” Hopkins said. “If those guys are the ones cutting the corners, then the culture erodes.”

The only other four-year starter honored was Bowen and he was never one to cut any corners. The midfielder started nearly 50 games for the Aztecs and finished with 14 goal contributions in his career. Bowen nearly gave himself a farewell goal early in the first half against the Bruins, from a strike on his right side ricocheted off the top of the bar. 

“One of the hardest workers, first one in, last one out, always doing extra lift, and always doing extra finishing,” Hopkins said.

The Aztecs have 16 newcomers going into next season, 12 being freshmen and four being transfers. The staple that the five seniors honored have left for SDSU will surely be one that can be used for the future Aztec players and the culture coach Hopkins and his staff look to build.