DiDonato's goal brings UCCS a golden moment
The celebration mixed amazement, respect and joy.
But before that, the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs soccer team had poise. Add in two solid shots and UCCS upset 15th-ranked Colorado College 2-1 Wednesday afternoon at Stewart Field.
The Gold players and coaches leaped from the sidelines as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock and met for a group hug near midfield.
Hobbling into the huddle of cheers was sophomore Chad DiDonato. His goal off Torin Haskell's assits with 26 1/2 minutes left lifted UCCS to its first win ever in the seven-game series with CC, which had a 10-game home winning streak.
DiDonato missed the final 23 minutes with a right-thigh bruise.
"It's the biggest goal of my entire soccer career, probably of this program," DiDonato said. "This is the biggest game we ever won.
"We're going to remember this day for a long time."
UCCS coach Eddy Dietz has been planning this for years.
As a college player, he was a CC star. He took over the Gold three years ago and aimed toward the Tigers. HIis goal: Be as good as those guys. Be as good a coach as CC veteran Horst Richardson.
"Three years of work and no one knows how hard it's been," Dietz said. "We have been playing better, better than our 4-5 record shows. We should have lost only one of those games.
"It's the biggest win in UCCS history. In a way I feel bad because it's against Horst, but that's part of the rivalry.
"But I lose enough of these games."
Neither team scored in a high-speed first half. Andy Staples put UCCS ahead six minutes into the second half on DiDonato's assist. Eighty-seven seconds later, CC's Noah Epstein tied it when he netted a shot off a scramble near the goal.
The NCAA Division III Tigers, 5-3, squandered chances over the next 10 minutes. Open shots sailed wide of UCCS goalie Ryan Herbig and his goal. Then, DiDonato provided the shocker for the Division II upstarts.
"The ball poked through there (from Haskell) and I took off on my own," DiDonato said. "I kept my composure for the first time this season and I just stuck it away. I'm glad it counted. I'm glad it's over."
Epstein sat on the Tiger bench for 10 minutes afterward in grief and disbelief.
"They were a class act this year," he said. "They marked Louie (Aaron Lujan) and me pretty well. I don't feel we had that many good chances."
CC outshot the visitors, 20-10.
"Their work rate was much better," Richardson said. "They battled. I think our biggest enemy is the reputation we built up last year, going to the final four. The pressure is on to play well every game. Sooner or later, it's going to catch up to you."
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