Titans Topple UC Davis in Penalty Kicks to win Big West Championship

DAVIS, Calif. – Fullerton men's soccer clinched its third Big West Tournament Championship in four years after defeating UC Davis 4-3 in penalty kicks Saturday afternoon at Aggi Soccer Field behind sensational goalkeeping play from Paul-Andre Guerin and Alfredo Cortez.

"Very proud of this team. They have worked extremely hard. We've gone through some tremendous adversity this season," said Head Coach George Kuntz. "We showed quite a bit of resiliency and depth, and we showed persistence. Just a great example for these young men to carry on in their lives, if they just keep persisting, things will get better." 

Titans goalkeeper Andre-Guerin played his best game of the season, racking up six saves in a shutout effort. Three of his six saves were absolutely incredible stops, including a one-handed diving save in the final minutes to keep the game scoreless and send it to overtime.

"The header back across...I don't even know how he got to that," said UC Davis Head Coach Dwayne Shaffer. "My oldest brother was a goalkeeper in his day and he pulled me aside at the end and he said 'Three world class saves.' You don't throw that term around very loosely." 

Because of his stellar play, Guerin earned Big West Tournament Champions Most Valuable Player honors.

Since arriving at Cal State Fullerton in 2014, Kuntz and his staff have now led the Titans to four consecutive finals appearances while winning three out of the four. Kuntz has won seven of the 10 Big West Conference Tournament Championships with UC Irvine and now Fullerton.

The two teams started on the attack early with a fast paced up and down match. However, neither team was able to find the back of the net through 90 minutes while both had good opportunities.

Fullerton outshot the Aggies with a steady offensive attack all game long, totaling 12 shots to UC Davis' 10. Both teams also earned its fair amount of corner kicks as the Titans earned five and the Aggies earned nine.

Freshman Christian Pinzon had a great look at the goal late in the second overtime as he cut across the front of the net, however, he was unable to muster enough strength on the ball to get it past Davis goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley.

Neither team was able to get much going in the overtime periods as the Titans had two shots, one of which a great look by pinzon, while UC Davis had just one shot.

In penalty kicks the coaches decided to make a change in net as they substituted Cortez in for his length between the posts. The change proved to be the right decision as Cortez forced one errant shot while saving the last PK to earn the Titans the victory. Guerin wasn't done for the game though, he shot third in the penalty kicks for Fullerton and made his attempt with ease.

"It was a selfless moment for our team. It was absolutely the epitome of what sportsmanship is all about," Kuntz said. "With a guy that is the MVP of the tournament (Paul-Andre Guerin) giving up his spot for a young man who is a great goalkeeper PK saver. To give that up is pretty amazing, and he didn't even flinch." 

Nicolo D'Amato, Pinzon, Andre-Guerin and Samuel Goni all made their penalty kick attempts to give the Titans four successful attempts to the Aggies three.

"We take a lot of PK's at training. Actually, I was more nervous when my teammates were taking it rather than when I was taking it," D'Amato said. "I felt great when I was taking it. I felt calm. I know my teammates do their routine, and I trust my teammates." 

With the win the Titans punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons. Fullerton will find out where the journey begins Monday at 10:00 a.m. PT. The NCAA Selection Show will be streamed live on NCAA.com.

 

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