The Bay skies were cloudy, with rolling fog to come, but the field was looking as beautiful as ever with St. Ignatius Church keeping a watchful eye over the defending West Coast Conference champions. Riding the high of that championship, the team’s first in nine years, the University of San Francisco men’s soccer team opened the season against the Matadors of California State University, Northridge. It would be their 12th encounter against CSUN in program history and the first time the teams have met since 2010, when the Dons won 2-1 in overtime. Dons head coach Eddie Soto inserted five new starters into the line-up as the Dons got the show on the road in front of a vibrant home crowd.
The Matadors kicked off first to get the match underway. Dons sophomore goalkeeper Ruben Stuiver had to contend with the Matadors’ high press early, using his 6-foot-2-inches frame to make a save on a shot from Daniel Trejo. The first half ended scoreless despite a combined eight shots and near misses for each team. Sean Bowman fired a shot just wide for the Dons, and Khalid Hunter squandered a chance for the Matadors with an open goal.
The action picked up in the second half. CSUN scored a quick goal in the 49th minute with a lobbed shot by Wolfgang Prentice, catching Stuiver off of his line. The Dons kept their heads up and responded quickly. Senior midfielder Santiago Digiuseppe scored two goals for his team, putting USF up 2-1.
Digiuseppe’s first goal came off of a free kick just outside the 18 yard box. He immediately ran over to his trainer, Stephanie Ludwig, and gave her an elated hug. The celebration was especially poignant as Ludwig has been present throughout Digiuseppe’s recovery from an injury at the end of last season.
“It was so surreal,” Digiuseppe said. “I have been thinking of that moment for a long time and for it to come out exactly how I planned it to be is something else.”
Digiuseppe’s second goal came off a cross from junior teammate Marcus Simmons. The midfielder used his left foot to put the ball in the back of the net. However, the Matadors’ Hunter made amends for a first-half open net blunder by finishing off a goal amidst a defensive scramble from the Dons.
In the 81st minute, USF target man Sandro Bradara won a ball in a 50/50 challenge with Sanzharevskyl, which fell to Bowman, who was there to provide the finishing touch and the game-winning goal. The match ended with a final score of 3-2 and the Dons claiming their first non-conference win of the 2018 season.
Coach Soto emphasized the importance of preparation before the match. “We really focused on our team defending and individual defending so it was nice to see it going into half 0-0,” he said. The team “excelled in the final third,” which showed by the bounty of three goals, Soto added.