Ten Triton teams gear up for postseason

    It’s almost May and in the world of sports that means one thing: playoffs. Not only are two of the four major American sports in the midst of the first round of their postseasons, nearly every UCSD athletics program is preparing for postseason competition. In one month, the NCAA will hold national championships in 13 sports, with UCSD squads playing a role in 10 of them. Below is a team-by-team look at the postseason aspirations of the UCSD teams.

    Guardian file photo

    Baseball

    The baseball team’s late-season struggles have put a question mark over advancement to the California Collegiate Athletic Association postseason. The top four finishers in the CCAA advance to a double-elimination playoff May 9 to May 11 at Chico State University.

    The Tritons are the surprise team of the CCAA after bringing up the rear last season in their first year of Division II play. UCSD is currently in fourth place with a record of 21-15. Cal State San Bernardino is a game behind with a 19-15 record, and CCAA defending champion Sonoma State University is in sixth, 2.5 games back with a record of 18-17.

    UCSD holds the tiebreaker over Cal State San Bernardino with a four-game sweep of the Coyotes earlier in the season; the Tritons split their series with Sonoma State. Looking ahead, UCSD travels to third-ranked UC Davis for four games; CSUSB has a game left with second-place Grand Canyon University and bottom-feeder Cal State Stanislaus and a four-game series with last-place San Francisco State University; Sonoma State has one game left with Cal State Los Angeles before hosting Grand Canyon University.

    The CCAA tournament determines only the winner of the conference; bids to the NCAA tournament are decided by an eight-member selection committee. Four teams from each region are selected to make up the 32-team field. The latest regional ranking had the Tritons in fourth place, but since then UCSD dropped seven of 10 games while then fifth-ranked Grand Canyon has won six of nine, including two wins over top-ranked Chico State.

    Adding all this information up, UCSD has a “”magic number”” of four wins to make the CCAA playoffs. Once there, it needs a convincing win over Grand Canyon in an effort to persuade the selection committee that it is worthy of a bid. The 2002 NCAA Division II Western Regional will take place at the highest-seeded qualifier May 16 to May 18. The 2002 NCAA Baseball Championships will take place May 25 to June 1 at Paterson Field in Montgomery, Ala.

    Golf

    The golf team finished the season strongly — so strongly that it was able to claim one of the final eight bids to the NCAA Western Regional to be held May 6 to May 8 at Estrella Mountain Ranch Golf Club in Goodyear, Ariz.

    Led by all-CCAA team member Ryan Gale, the Tritons fired a team total of 899 at the CCAA Championships at Diablo Grande’s Legends Course in Patterson, Calif. More importantly, Cal State San Bernardino fired a 905 and UCSD’s placement over the Coyotes was enough to mathematically propel it to the regionals.

    There are 10 regions in NCAA Division II men’s golf, with the winner of each regional advancing to the National Championship. Furthermore, eight at-large teams will be selected to participate with two-to-four of those bids expected to go to teams in the West. The top two individuals who are not on a team going to the nationals from each region will also advance to nationals.

    While the Tritons retain little hope of advancing unless they win the regional, Ryan Gale, who coach Mike Wydra called “”one of the best players in Southern California”” earlier this year, has a distinct chance of making the final competition. Gale has the team’s lowest competition average, won the Cal Lutheran Invitational earlier this year, and is coming off a one-over 217 at the CCAA Championship. If the Tritons do get out of the Western Regional, they will take part in the 2002 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships May 21 to May 24 at Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort at Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

    Women’s Tennis

    The UCSD women’s tennis team has qualified for the 2002 NCAA Western Regional to be hosted next weekend at UCSD’s own North Tennis Courts. The Tritons were chosen to host the regional over UC Davis. The Tritons split their two matches with Davis this season, but the Aggies’ two losses to Cal Poly Pomona and UCSD’s convincing victory over the Broncos was enough to give the nod to the Tritons.

    There are eight regions in Division II women’s tennis, with two competitions in each region for the 16 national championship spots. UC Davis, Grand Canyon and Hawaii-Hilo make up the rest of the field for the UCSD-hosted portion of the Western Regional. The Tritons will take on Hawaii-Hilo, which is ranked No. 19 in the nation in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll, Friday at 2 p.m. in the first round, leaving No. 16 Davis to take on No. 18 Grand Canyon. The final will take place Saturday at 11 a.m. If UCSD wins its bracket, the team will advance to the 2002 NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships May 9 to May 12 at the Plaza Tennis Center in Kansas City, Mo.

    Men’s Tennis

    The UCSD men’s tennis team received a favorable draw in the 2002 NCAA Western Regional, heading to Hawaii to take on Hawaii-Hilo and Hawaii Pacific.

    Six teams make the Western Regional competition with two teams advancing to the 16-team National Championship. UCSD will take on unranked Hawaii-Hilo Friday, May 3. The winner of that match-up takes on 10th-ranked Hawaii Pacific the next day, with the winner advancing to the National Championships. Of note, the Tritons ended up on the opposite side of the draw of first-ranked Brigham Young University-Hawaii, something necessary to have a chance of qualifying for the National Championship.

    UCSD lost to Hawaii Pacific 3-6 earlier this season, with the Tritons losing two three-set matches that would have tilted the balance in favor of UCSD had they prevailed. Hawaii-Hilo enters the competition with a 12-12 record, Hawaii Pacific is 18-4 (with two losses to ranked Division I teams and two losses to BYU-Hawaii) and the Tritons are 18-3. The 2002 Men’s Tennis Championships will take place May 3 to May 5 at the Plaza Tennis Center in Kansas City, Mo.

    Softball

    The UCSD women’s softball team opened the season 13-1 and was 20-7 on March 15; a spot in the 2002 NCAA Western Regional seemed a forgone conclusion with the way the Tritons were playing. But since then, UCSD has gone 8-16 and is now four games out of the CCAA lead with only four games remaining.

    Now UCSD, ranked eighth in the latest NCAA Western Region rankings, is scrapping for one of the six spots in the Western Regional. The six entrants are determined by a complicated NCAA power ranking.

    The Tritons are apparently competing with Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State Bakersfield for the final spot, though nobody is incredibly sure of the unreleased power rankings. UCSD split two games with Bakersfield and won two of three against Dominguez Hills in the last two weeks.

    The 2002 NCAA Western Regional will take place May 9 to May 12 at the home field of the highest-seeded team. The 2002 NCAA Softball Championships are scheduled for May 16 through May 20 in Salem, Va.

    Women’s Water Polo

    The Triton women are searching for their first bid to the NCAA tournament since moving to Division II last year and could achieve it with a Western Water Polo Association title. UCSD was scheduled to take on Loyola Marymount University in the WWPA final Sunday afternoon with results unavailable at press time. Earlier in the season, Loyola took down the Tritons in a 4-2 defensive showdown at UCSD’s Canyonview Pool.

    The winner of the WWPA receives an automatic bid to the four-team NCAA national championship. Stanford, UCLA and either University of Michigan or Hartwick College are expected to fill out the rest of the bracket. The tournament will take place May 11 to May 12 at the University of Southern California.

    Track and Field

    Both the men’s and women’s track teams have been incredibly strong this year. The women’s team in particular has excelled, winning a CCAA dual meet, the UCSD Collegiate Invitational and a second-place finish at the All-Cal championships with four Division I schools. The men finished second in both the CCAA dual meet and the UCSD Collegiate Invitational with a fifth-place finish in the All-Cal and 22nd in the California-Nevada meet.

    However, in track and field, individual times are used to determine bids to the NCAA National Championships: UCSD will look to improve on ots 29th-place finish in the men’s and 50th-place finish in the women’s 2001 NCAA Championships. The CCAA Championship will be the last opportunity for the Tritons to qualify athletes for the 2002 NCAA Championships (to take place May 23 through May 25 at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas).

    Women’s Crew

    2002 marks the first time the NCAA has instituted a separate women’s rowing championship — men’s rowing does not fall under NCAA jurisdiction — for each division. Four regions will send one team and the NCAA will select one school at-large to compete in the inaugural competition.

    The West is likely to receive two bids, with UCSD, UC Davis and Western Washington all showing well throughout the year. In the latest rankings from the NCAA, UCSD is third with UC Davis first and Western Washington second. UCSD has three more events left in which to show the selection committee it deserves a spot in the finals. The 2002 NCAA Rowing Championships will take place May 30 through June 1 at Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis.

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