Grand Canyon advances to West Region finale after beating Cal State L.A. 5-4 on penalty kicks

Brian Green Courtesy GCU Sports Information

PHOENIX - Second-seed Grand Canyon, ranked No. 7 in the nation, advanced to the NCAA Division II West Region final on Saturday night, Nov. 10, by edging Cal State Los Angeles 5-4 on penalty kicks in Phoenix.

Second-seeded Grand Canyon, ranked No. 7 in the nation, won on penalty kicks (5-4) after the Antelopes and sixth-seeded Cal State Los Angeles played to a 1-1 double-overtime tie in an NCAA II West Region semifinal match at GCU Soccer Field on the campus of Grand Canyon University.

After Grand Canyon goalkeeper Joshua Zehring negated the Eagles' final shootout attempt by Oscar Carrillo, Antelopes' senior Brian Green found the back of the net for the clincher, moving the Antelopes (15-2-2) into the region final against top-seed and second-ranked Simon Fraser. The Clan defeated Cal State Stanislaus 2-1 in the other semifinal.

"I've had a history of taking penalty kicks," Green said. "Of course you get nervous. I feel as a senior I wanted to be able to put it in my hands. After Josh made that save I knew I had the opportunity to win a game."

Grand Canyon had Zehring to thank for getting the match to a shootout. After getting few save opportunities in regulation, he was busy in the first overtime.

The Eagles had six shots in the first five minutes; Zehring had a pair of beautiful saves to keep the match going.

"Incredible saves," GCU Head Coach Petar Draksin said. "That's been Josh all year long. He made a commitment this summer. He was a redshirt and I thought he'd be a No. 2, but he stepped in and proved me wrong. He's been our No. 1 all year."

Getting to the region final is the furthest Grand Canyon has advanced since losing in the West Region final to Seattle Pacific in 1998.

"This team has shown great heart and a never-give-up attitude," Draksin added. "They've brought our program back where it belongs, where the program was in the 90s."

GCU improved to 11-0 on its homefield.

The regulation goals were identical; both scored on headers just right of the goal, on crossing passes, though CSULA's was a little more dramatic.

The Eagles had few good chances during most of regular time, but in the 86th minute, Rosario Bras, the team's leading scorer who tallied Thursday's lone goal, connected on a header from Halil Tozar.

It was Bras' 11th of the season.

The Eagles had 10 shots, but only two warranted saves from Zehring.

GCU's Adam Finnefrock scored in the 21st minute, his second of the season, on a cross from Alex Connally. Zoran Nincevic, Chris Green, Connally, Saeed Robinson and Brian Green had GCU's five shootout goals.

"I've been here five years," Chris Green said. "This has been our biggest season. Everything has seemed to fall into place."

CSULA had successful penalty kicks from Antti Arvola, Tozar, Erick Escobedo, and Andy Lopez. CSULA finishes its season with an 11-4-5 mark.

"You can't forget Cal State LA," Draksin added. "They've got a great squad. They play with a lot of class and played their hearts out."

GCU will play No. 2 Simon Fraser in the West Region Finals. Date, time and location will be announced when available. Located outside Vancouver in British Columbia, Simon Fraser hosted the sub-regional in California.