Tritons in the hunt for a rival

    Rivalries: Duke has North Carolina; Stanford has Cal and Ohio State has Michigan. UCSD has …

    Kenrick Leung

    Wait, who does UCSD have? A crosstown rival? Nope, no other San Diego university competes at the Division II level. A traditional rival? Nope, schedules in every sport changed dramatically when UCSD moved to National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II in 1999. Unfortunately, UCSD has no one to hate, no one to wish ruin upon, and no games that fans circle on the schedules.

    But there is nothing wrong with not having a rival. Fire should come from within an athlete or team, it shouldn’t be manufactured. Teams should give their all every game. With talent and some luck, success will come. Having a hated rival often distracts a team from the task at hand, potentially making a squad look past nonrival opponents. Even so, rivalries make sports fun for players and fans.

    So that raises the question: If UCSD were to have a rival, who would it be? The closest school to San Diego that the Tritons face regularly is Cal State Dominguez Hills. While the Toros have a solid athletic department, they are serious contenders only in soccer. What about the team with the most annoying traveling fans? That would be the Broncos of Cal Poly Pomona. But then again, like their counterparts from DH, they aren’t up to par with the Tritons in many sports.

    Guardian file photo

    The logical choice then goes to UCSD’s biggest competition — not only in the California Collegiate Athletic Association but in the entire NCAA — UCSD’s siblings from the north, UC Davis.

    This developing rivalry could become a staple in California. UC Davis and UCSD are similar institutions, often mentioned in the same breath in terms of the quality of California universities.

    Most importantly, UC Davis and UCSD are competitive in nearly every sport, fostering a natural rivalry between the two.

    But don’t think of this rivalry as artificial — the schools are so similar and their athletic programs are so competitive that it’s only natural for UCSD athletes to want to beat Davis.

    “”Rivalries do develop on a sport-by-sport level, but if you look at the department level as a whole, it’s apparent that Davis has become our main rival,”” said Assistant Athletic Director Ken Grosse. “”It’s only natural, because they’re the only other UC school [in the CCAA] and they have an outstanding program — one that we wish to emulate but be better than.””

    Davis is also starting to gun for UCSD.

    “”We used to have a monopoly on the types of kids who go to UC schools in Division II athletics,”” said UC Davis Assistant Sports Information Director Mark Hondo. “”We’re starting to lose a bunch of kids to UCSD now and obviously that adds something to the competition.””

    Certain Triton teams naturally have a great competition with the Aggies. The women’s tennis team’s only loss in the CCAA last season came against UC Davis, but the Tritons are already looking for revenge when the Aggies visit UCSD on Feb. 17.

    “”This year, our match [against Davis] is at home, and we think we have a good chance to beat them. But our goal is to be No. 1 in the conference,”” said women’s tennis coach Liz LaPlante.

    The women’s water polo program always targets UC Davis in Western Water Polo Association play.

    “”Every game gets us prepared for [rivals] Loyola Marymount and Davis,”” senior captain Emma Kruditzki said.

    The most noticeable result of this rivalry, however, is the race for the Sears Directors’ Cup. Given out annually to the school that does the best in every sport, the cup is now a major goal for the Tritons.

    Last year, Davis won the cup in the Tritons’ first year at the Division II level, but this year’s race is poised to go down to the wire. UCSD Athletic Director Earl Edwards thinks UCSD has a chance to win what many consider the most prestigious title in college athletics.

    “”I told [the UC Davis athletic director] that we’re going to take [the cup] away from him,”” Edwards said in an earlier interview.

    “”It’s not a bit surprising how well UCSD has fared at the Division II level at all. It’s only a matter of time before they compete in the Directors’ Cup,”” Hondo said.

    This rivalry is now carrying over to the fans as well. When the UC Davis basketball teams visit RIMAC Arena on March 1, the Aggies should be prepared for a rude reception.

    “”We have some special things planned for the Davis game,”” said Robin Shelton, director of Triton Tide. “”Coming off the energy created by Spirit Night [Feb. 15 against Cal State Los Angeles] we hope the UCSD students come together against Davis.””

    For now, the UC Davis-UCSD rivalry can be classified as “”brewing,”” but it’s only a matter of time before Aggies-Tritons meetings become the Division II equivalent of Bruins-Trojans and Blue Devils-Tar Heels battles.

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