Nick Zuniga was the hero.
Nov. 25, 2012
STORRS, Conn. - Nicholas Zuniga(Norwalk, Conn.) picked the right time to score the first goal of his collegiate career as the freshman buried the game-winning goal 4:18 into the second overtime to lead UConn past New Mexico, 2-1, in the NCAA Third Round held at Morrone Stadium in front of 4,315 fans on Sunday afternoon.
UConn improved to 17-3-1 while New Mexico dropped to 17-4-1.
Zuniga took a through ball from Carlos Alvarezat the top of the box and beat UNM keeper Victor Rodriguez into the lower left corner to give UConn the 2-1 edge in one of the more open contests this season.
"At the moment, what was going through my mind was to just put it in the goal because I had enough opportunities that game, I'm just glad I got that one," said Zuniga. "My heart is still pounding right now."
"Well what I'm feeling the most right now is that I get to play more with these guys right here, the seniors," added Zuniga. "They're a good group of guys and I want this season to go all the way."
With the victory, UConn advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the second straight season, the 13th time in program history and the fifth time under the direction of Ray Reid. UConn will play the winner of Creighton at Akron which begins at 4:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon in Akron, Ohio.
The NCAA Quarterfinal will take place in Storrs at Morrone Stadium at 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 2.
"There are years where we've played teams off the field and we went home," said Head Coach Ray Reid. "I'm tired of reading on Monday morning that it's a strange game and that it's not a fair game with us being on the wrong end of it. This is what it's about right now. I got a text from a fellow coach that just said, `survive and advance'. That's what it's about."
Zuniga came on as a substitute and had three great opportunities, starting with a shot from six yards out 40 seconds into the second half. Zuniga missed another open shot midway through the half and buried his third and final attempt.
"We said to him at the start of overtime that the third one's the charm. It was a clinical finish," said Reid. "Maybe he hasn't played as much as he should because of the guys ahead of him, but he's a great player. An MLS player maybe in the future."
New Mexico's leading scorer Devon Sandoval put the Lobos ahead at 31:48 with a toe poke into the right side, finishing off a rebound on a saved shot by Michael Calderon. It marked just the fifth time UConn has gone behind all season.
Mamadou Doudou Diouf equalized with his 15th tally of the year. Max Wasserman drove in a cross from the right side towards the back post. Sean Weirheaded back across the six where Diouf out-jumped the defense to head into the left side.
"I saw the ball play to the side and I go to the side of the box," said Diouf. "Coach was saying "you are going to have rebound today. You are gonna get a rebound goal." So when I saw the cross, I just go like this and flick it in. It was right there and I just had to score."
Stephane Diop had the first real chance for either team at 16:24, hitting the left post from a tight angle on the left side. Diop took a pass from Mamadou Doudou Dioufdown the left side of the box, waiting for Rodriguez to commit but couldn't squeeze the ball inside the left post.
Diouf ripped a shot at 21:50 from the left side of the box into the left side netting after a pair of step-overs to lose his defender.
Alvarez had a header wide in the 20th minute after a well-struck cross from Max Wasserman.
Andre Blakemade a goal-saving stop at 21:40, rushing out to smother an attempt by New Mexico's James Rogers from the top-left corner of the six-yard box.
Alvarez nearly evened the score with a half volley from the top of the box at 40:05. Sean Weircollected a bouncing ball in the box and dropped a pass to Alvarez. Alvarez's one-time strike went just over the bar.
At half, New Mexico held a 1-0 lead with a 6-4 edge in shots.
Freshman Nick Zuniga started the second half and had a golden opportunity just 40 seconds in. Zuniga took a pass from Alvarez on the right side and fired a shot from 12 yards out that was saved. New Mexico countered at the other end and had a shot from Blake Smith blocked out for a corner. The resulting corner led to a header by Matthew Gibbons saved by Blake.
Flo Liusent a dangerous cross in from the left side at 62:50 that just missed the diving heads of Diouf and Zuniga.
New Mexico countered again with Blake Smith outracing Blake to a loose ball in the UConn end. Smith hit a slow rolling ball towards the empty net only to have Michael Mercadoslide in and clear the danger off the goal line.
Wasserman smashed a free kick from 30 yards out with 16 remaining into the wall. Nick Zuniga had another chance a minute later from the same spot at the right side of the box only to fire his attempt high.
Diouf finally equalized at 75:57 with his 15th goal of the year. Wasserman drove in a cross from the right side towards the back post. Sean Weirheaded back across the six where Diouf out-jumped the defense to head into the left side.
New Mexico's Ben McKendry missed a golden opportunity for the game winner. McKendry had a chance to tap in the game-winning goal with 2 minutes remaining but missed wide from a foot away.
Neither team had any quality chances in the first overtime.