Last night’s men’s soccer victory over Chaminade University felt good. It was on Senior Night at Grand Canyon University and featured a dominant offensive effort by the Antelopes.
But it was somewhat anti-climatic to the day before when the ‘Lopes clinched the Pacific West Conference championship for the second straight year, thanks to an upset victory by Academy of Art over Notre Dame de Namur in overtime. It meant that Notre Dame couldn’t overtake GCU in the standings.
And once again, it was local high school standout, Kyle Ciliento, leading the way in the 8-1 rout of Chaminade. The sophomore, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year while at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, scored four goals in the regular-season finale.
The ‘Lopes (14-2-2, 12-1-1) close out their regular season ranked No. 15 in the nation, up five spots from the previous week, and No. 2 in the West Region. They joined the PacWest Conference just five years ago and have captured the championship every year but one.
They will find out Monday evening where they will be seeded in the NCAA D-II Championship Tournament.
Ciliento transferred in from St. Mary’s College of California after an injury cut his season there short and has given the GCU program, which has six conference titles and one national championship already in the trophy case, a huge boost this year.
He closed out his career at Pinnacle HS by setting a state high school record for career goals (160) and assists (88), and since then has showed the same skill set on the college level. Last year he started all 20 games at GCU and was named the PacWest Freshman of the Year and the PacWest Player of the Year.
During October, he was twice selected to the PacWest weekly Top 10 Honor Roll, most recently for the week of Oct. 25 when he scored both of the team goals for that week.
In the season finale against Chaminade, Ciliento opened the ‘Lopes’ scoring with a goal at the five-minute mark, kicking in his own rebound following an assist by another local product, Mitchell Garcia.
Garcia is a junior midfielder who used Phoenix College after his high school career at Agua Fria HS in Avondale as his conduit to a four-year college. He was a Second-Team All-Arizona selection at Agua Fria and a First-Team All-Arizona pick at PC.
Ciliento went on to score his other three goals before halftime arrived, giving the ‘Lopes a commanding 5-0 lead at the intermission. Chaminade didn’t get on the board until the 90th minute, when the game was already in the win column.
He finished the regular season with a total of 25 goals, two more than he accumulated last year.
As the second half opened, another local player picked up where Ciliento left off in the first half. Ten minutes into the second half, Emmanuel Bonilla-Segura, a freshman forward from North High School in Phoenix, scored his first career goal on a feed from junior midfielder, Kyle Dubay, a transfer from Central Connecticut State.
The ‘Lopes finished with a 21-7 advantage in shots, as well as a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
Now they wait and gather around the computer Monday about 5 o’clock, when the NCAA will announce the tournament selections via a webcast.
(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)