Goodbye to the Tritons' Best of the Best

The time has come to say good-bye to two UCSD athletes who were more than just members of a team — they were champions through and through.

Courtesy UCSD Athletics

This June, Cindy Dostalek and Christy Abizaid of the UCSD women’s soccer team will be graduating, taking their championship style out into the world.

“”There was so much in my college experience, and what I learned in college in general, that I owe to the team,”” said Abizaid, a Marshall student who is earning a degree in psychology. “”I played with so many different kinds of people on the field during my four years, and the most important thing was who they were and the ultimate personality of the team. Every year it’s different, and every year it’s equally as special.””

Dostalek is also a Marshall student and is majoring in political science with a minor in communication. It wasn’t the path she had planned to take when she came in.

“”[UCSD’s] bio program was one of the best in the nation,”” she said. “”I was strictly going for my academic interests. Soccer was always something that I did on the side because it was fun, and I loved to play. If I could still play in college, it would be a bonus.””

The way these two athletes came to UCSD was very different.

“”Christy came across us,”” said head coach Brian McManus. “”She recruited us. She wrote to me. She told me about her background. I checked the background of the clubs that she’s worked in and they were good clubs. This was somewhere she really wanted to come.””

Abizaid was an Army child and lived in Germany during her last year of high school.

“”I decided I wanted to go to San Diego,”” she said. “”I came here and found out that this team was Division III national [champions] — I didn’t know what that meant. I knew that it meant they were good, but I didn’t know if it meant I could compete. It was intimidating to come, [to decide] not to play and then decide to play on the spur of the moment and realize what I was getting myself into.””

Abizaid was vacationing when she decided on her future.

“”It was an interesting turn of events, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way,”” she said. “”It was kind of an accident that we all found each other.””

Dostalek was recruited in a more traditional fashion.

“”Cindy had lived up in L.A.,”” McManus said. “”She had been in touch with me. I went and watched her play a couple of times. She told me that she decided that she was coming to this school. When you saw her play, you saw her place. You knew that she would be an effect anywhere she [played]. There’s no substitute for speed.””

The two superstars were recruited as Division III players. Last year, the school moved to Division II, a whole new ball game.

“”The two of them could have played at Division I schools,”” McManus said. “”At least three quarters of the players in this squad could play at Division I without a doubt. When we recruit players, we recruit soccer players. Not Division III, II or I. We go for the best players we can get. There {have} been a lot of players that have come through, but these two could have played at Division I.””

Dostalek and Abizaid each brought something special to the playing field.

“”Christy always brought a very high level of energy since her very first freshman game,”” McManus said. “”I played her in the first game — put her in after about 15 minutes. She went in and scored one her very first freshman game. She was an impact player right from day one.””

Dostalek was equally special.

“”Her pace,”” McManus said. “”Her tolerance for pain. She’s been injured a lot. She’s played with them, right through them. A lot of her injuries have been self-inflicted because she doesn’t know when to hold back. Every time she goes onto the field, it’s 1,000 miles an hour, nothing less. She brings that. She lifts teams. There’s games where she’s lifted the team on her own by runs she’s made. It’s an unwritten thing that you can’t find in other players. She just brings that one quality that teams don’t have.””

The two women brought things to the playing field that are not always obvious.

“”One of the biggest things they brought to the team was honesty,”” McManus said. “”They are so honest as players. You know that they’re never going to give any less. In fact, if they’re not playing well, they’ll say, ‘Take me off.’ They would rather come out than stay on the field for the sake of staying on the field. Even when they’re having a bad game, they’re going to give you everything. They’re not going to back off.””

Both Dostalek and Abizaid started playing soccer at a very young age. And how they ended their college careers couldn’t be better material for Hollywood: Abizaid dished an assist to Dostalek, who kicked a goal with 15 seconds left. Oh yeah, it was for the national championship.

“”The two of them started together,”” McManus said. “”They roomed together virtually ever since. They’re the closest of friends you’ll ever meet. They’ll be life-long friends. That’s how close they are.””

All in all, Abizaid and Dostalek won three championships in four years.

“”There’s the team aspect I’ll always love. It’s the pace,”” Abizaid said. “”The continuous motion. It’s a player’s game. Ultimately, you’re going to decide what you’re going to do with that ball at any given time. You have to read the game and pick and choose your moment to do what you know how to do best. I think it takes a certain amount of intelligence and drive to play it. You run for 90 minutes straight. It’s been an amazing four years, I wouldn’t have changed any of it.””

Needless to say, their careers have been special.

“”I’ve learned so much and have grown so much since I’ve gone to UCSD,”” Dostalek said. “”The situations I’ve come to handle and the way I relate with people. You pick up a lot of life skills. Every one of those national championships stands out in my mind. It was unbelievable to win that third one. I was very fortunate for the success that I had. I’ve had every athlete’s dream come true three times.

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