HAYWARD -- For the first time in school history, the Cal State Stanislaus men's soccer team has won an NCAA Tournament game, but only after 45 excruciating minutes for Warrior goaltender Clint Long.
Stanislaus never trailed, but was tied twice before Daniel Kuczynski's goal in the 78th minute gave the Warriors a 3-2 victory Thursday night over Notre Dame de Namur at Cal State East Bay.
The question for Long came in the 41st minute, with the Warriors holding a 2-1 lead. The Argonauts were awarded a penalty kick after one of their attackers was bumped off the ball in the box, and Long snuffed the penalty shot.
Not so fast. The linesman ruled that Long stepped away from the goal line prior to the shot being taken, and a second shot was awarded. Omar Herrera buried the shot for Notre Dame, and the game was tied.
For the rest of the game, Long couldn't help but think that his mistake may have ended his team's season.
"We had the momentum going, then I made the stop before it was called back," Long said. "It was nervewracking, and over the last 45 minutes I was thinking that maybe I cost us our season right there. I didn't think I came out."
As it turned out, Long's infraction served only to make his three second-half saves that much more dramatic, a fitting setting for the Warriors' historic night.
Stanislaus (12-4-3) has set a school record for wins in a season and advanced to Saturday's NCAA West 1 Regional Final against top seed Simon Fraser of British Columbia. Notre Dame, located in Belmont, finished 13-5-1.
For Stanislaus, reaching this point of the season means the program has come a long way under fourth-year head coach Dana Taylor, but it also means they've gotten hot at the right time.
The Warriors scored only 21 goals in 16 regular season games, but found the net seven times in winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament championship last weekend before scoring three against the Argonauts.
"I'm not going to tell you what we did, but two weeks ago we changed something up and it's paid dividends," Taylor said. "Tonight was a result of everybody meshing and working hard."
Stanislaus was outshot 8-2 in the second half, and scored on its only good scoring chance after halftime. Keith Ramirez flicked a backdoor pass from the right side through the defense directly onto the foot of Kuczynski, who one-timed it easily past Notre Dame goalie Jay Tsurouka.
About 10 minutes earlier, Kuczynski had to be helped off the field with an apparent ankle injury, but got back in time to score the game-winner.
"After I rolled my ankle I just gave it my all," said the sophomore from Ajax, Ontario. "We stuck to our gameplan and kept cutting in through the back. I happened to be there at the right time and put it away."
Stanislaus opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Carlos Gavino intercepted a weak clearing attempt, took two dribbles to his right and crossed the keeper with a hard shot into the left side.
The Warriors barely had stopped celebrating when Notre Dame leveled the game on a rush to the left side that was finished by Frank Barnes from close range.
Atwater's Jesse Horta gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead in the 29th minute when he outhustled Tsurouka for a bouncing ball in the box and flicked it home from point-blank range. That lead stood for about 12 minutes, when Notre Dame took advantage of the infraction on the penalty kick.
"I asked for clarification at the end of the game," Taylor said. "The official said he gives keepers one step, but he said Clint took two steps out. It didn't look like it to me, but you have to respect the call."
And now, you have to respect Stanislaus soccer.
"It's big to get this first tournament win, and 12 wins is a benchmark that we've now set," Long said. "It means we're a team to contend with, that we're coming out to get other teams."