Tritons clinch third-straight conference title

    Excitement and anticipation permeated the soggy atmosphere at Rohnert Park’s Seawolf Field as the first-ranked Tritons crushed their bitter rivals, third-ranked UC Davis, in the title match of the 2002 California Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Soccer Championship on Nov. 9.

    Guardian file photo

    With this grueling but monumental win, UCSD improves to 15-2-1 as well as securing its third-consecutive CCAA crown. The Tritons are almost guaranteed a chance at a fourth -straight national championship when pairings are announced. With the defeat, UC Davis is placed at 11-6-2 overall.

    Triton forward Kristen Jones nabbed two outstanding goals, the latter of which came only 40 seconds into the second half. Jones go things going with her first goal in the 15th minute on a header off a lob pass from midfielder Lauren Jacobs.

    Jones out-leapt a desperate Aggie defender deep in the penalty box and placed the ball out of the reach of UC Davis goalkeeper Christine Ogden and inside the right goalpost.

    The game was a tortuous, tit-for-tat victory — a surges-and-plunges game that UCSD mastered with its strength, discipline and courage.

    Despite overwhelming the Tritons with a high ratio of shots, Davis floundered with its overly aggressive playing, which had them out-foul the Tritons at almost a 2-to-1 ratio.

    UC Davis defender Ashlee Bruntzman connected with Cynthia Rail’s third-consecutive corner kick in the 35th minute and scored on a header, as the Aggies attempted, ultimately unsuccessfully, to clean up their act.

    The Tritons fell into a slump as their defense was pinned on its end by the Aggies’ constant shots in their attempt to surge past UCSD.

    An Aggie shot, diverted from the arms of Triton goalkeeper Kami Poma, tied the game at one goal apiece as the two teams ended the first half.

    Neither the determined Triton defense nor their rapid offense were disheartened by the Aggies, who had their hands full with the traditional quick pace with which the Tritons played the game.

    Jones catapulted the Tritons to victory with her masterful goal only 40 seconds into the second half, when she outran several defenders and cut through two additional defenders before scoring the game-winner.

    After the goal, the game declined into a defensive quagmire, as the two top-ranked teams negotiated a boggy field laid to waste by the torrent of rain from the previous days.

    As if that weren’t enough, the troublesome Aggies sought to rally one last time when Kristin Aja’s cross from the left tried to find its way into the Triton goal.

    This became the climax of the game, since the Tritons’ superiority in recovering from seemingly overpowering odds was proudly showcased.

    UCSD maintained its momentum when it blocked every attempt almost at contact. With the full depth of the team shining forth, they exuded energy in preventing the ball from ruining their previous chance to clinch the title.

    The Tritons finally cleared the ball across midfield, effectively putting an end to the serious Aggie threat that became a lost cause.

    UCSD, focused and mentally prepared, capitalized on its chances and forced the Aggies to accept defeat in a game marred by a horrid playing field and pesky rival players.

    The triumph was an overall team effort, but particularly strong performances were made by Shannon Harrelson, Christine Wensel and Jackie Shaffer.

    This game followed the Tritons’ phenomenal 5-1 victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills in the semifinal on Nov. 7 in the heavy rain that shadowed UCSD.

    The Tritons’ great finish gave the two-time defending NCAA Division II Champions their third-straight CCAA crown and assured UCSD a shot at its fourth-straight national championship.

    The Tritons, confident with a 15-2-1 season and ranked sixth nationally, won the NCAA Division III crown in 1999 and then proceeded to win Division II titles in 2000 and 2001 as a CCAA member.

    With a degree of optimism, UCSD will likely receive a first-round bye and host the second round in the upcoming NCAA Division II Championship tournament.

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