Sato's Penalty Kick Goal Starts Bearcats on way to 3-1 Win over UC Santa Cruz

Ryan Sato (Fr., F, Sunnyvale, CA/Homestead HS)
Ryan Sato (Fr., F, Sunnyvale, CA/Homestead HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- Ryan Sato (Fr., F, Sunnyvale, CAHomestead HS) converted a penalty kick for Willamette University with 52 seconds remaining in the first half to break a scoreless tie, and the Bearcats went on to win at  University of California, Santa Cruz, 3-1, on Thursday, Sept. 6. The Bearcats added goals in the second half by Nicholas Ballenger (Jr., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS) and Mack van der Velde (So., D, Voorhout, Neth./Summit HS, Bend, OR). Willamette improved to 2-1 on the season, while the Banana Slugs fell to 0-3.

It was Willamette's third consecutive win over UC Santa Cruz. The Bearcats defeated the Banana Slugs in both 2016 and 2017 by 1-0 scores at Sparks Field in Salem, Oregon.

As halftime neared on Thursday, it appeared the teams would be tied at the break. Things changed quickly, however, when a UCSC player was called for a foul in the penalty area. Sato took the penalty kick and scored past goalie Andrew Pimentel at 44:08. Willamette took its 1-0 lead into the intermission.

Ballenger doubled the lead for the Bearcats at 61:49 when he tapped the ball into the net from five yards out after a header by Max Berner-Hays (So., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) was saved by Pimentel. The play wa set up by a Willamette free kick. After the kick, Pimentel was unable to control the shot by Berner-Hays and the ball fell into a scramble in front of the net. Ballenger scored for the third time this season.

Willamette increased its advantage to 3-0 at 77:18 on van der Velde's goal. Berner-Hays and Sato assisted on the play. Sato leads the Bearcats with three assists this fall, while Berner-Hays is tied for second with two assists.

The Banana Slugs avoided a shutout when Ari Statler scored for UC Santa Cruz at 80:41 with an unassisted goal. Willamette did not allow UCSC another shot during the game, as the Bearcats closed out the 3-1 win. Each team took nine shots overall, while the Bearcats gained a 6-4 edge in shots on goal. Willamette earned 5-1 margin in corner kicks.

Pimentel made three saves for the Banana Slugs while playing the first 80:42. Zachary Lamb played the final 9:18 in goal for UCSC. Willamette goalie Mason Kelliher (Jr., GK, Wellington, N.Z./Wellington College) played all 90 minutes and registered three saves, while improving to 1-1 on the season.

Willamette will remain in Santa Cruz to take on Albion College (Mich.) on Friday, Sept. 6. Game time at UCSC is set for 2 p.m. (PDT).