Blanco's Late Strike Lifts Titans to Victory

FULLERTON, Calif. -- Cal State Fullerton senior Gerzon Blanco netted his second game-winning goal in as many matches on Saturday night, breaking a scoreless tie in the 83rd minute to lift the Titans to the 1-0 win over visiting UC Irvine at Titan Stadium.

The victory was the third-consecutive win for Fullerton, which improved to 7-10-1 overall and 3-4-1 in Big West Conference play. The Titans are now four points clear of UC Riverside for the second and final Big West Tournament berth out of the South Division with two matches to play after the Highlanders fell to Cal State Northridge, 2-1, on Saturday.

The Anteaters suffered their fourth-consecutive defeat, falling to 4-13-1 overall and 1-7 in conference play.

"This was a big win," Head Coach Bob Ammann said. "It certainly wasn't one of our better games but we are very happy with the result and the three points. As the game continued, it was clear that it would come down to a crucial moment. After squandering all the very good chances we had in the first half we obviously didn't care how the winner came about.

"Our goal was to control our own destiny and we've certainly put ourselves in position to do that."

Blanco, who tallied the double-overtime winner last weekend at UC Riverside, finished off a nifty sequence in the final 10 minutes. Ian Ramos sent a low ball into the box from the right corner, through the legs of senior Jameson Campbell, and right to Blanco, who slotted it home into a wide open net with a defender bearing down at the left post.

It was the senior's third goal of the season, ranking him third on the team.

That turned out to be all the Titans would need as they ran out the final seven minutes to clinch key points in the race for the Big West postseason.

UC Irvine outshot Fullerton, 15-10, on the night, and managed to maintain a good portion of the possession over the course of the match. Nine of Anteaters' 15 shots came in the second half, but junior goalkeeper Bryan Escalante was up to the task, finishing with six saves and logging his first career shutout in the process.

Irvine almost broke through first in the 25th minute when Christopher Santana's shot from almost 20 yards was deflected in on net by a Fullerton defender, but Escalante was there at the left post to keep it out. The Anteaters then opened the second half with a barrage, taking six of the first eight shots in the period with Escalante turning away a pair.

Jonathan Birt
finished with a team-high three shots for the Titans, who had four players finish with multiple shots on the night. Cameron Iwasa finished with a match-high four shots to pace the Anteaters, who also took seven of the eight corner kicks on the night.

Cal State Fullerton closes out the regular season next week with a pair of matches, opening at Cal State Northridge on Halloween night before hosting UC Riverside in the finale on Saturday, Nov. 3. Both matches are scheduled for 7 p.m.