Women's soccer crowned CCAA champions

    The UCSD women’s soccer team wrapped up its fourth consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship on Nov. 9 in Carson, Calif. The Tritons soundly defeated host Cal State Dominguez Hills 5-1 in the CCAA finale with four skillful goals, including a two-goal effort by senior Shannon Harrelson.

    Rebecca Drexler/Guardian file
    Triton trouncing: UCSD women¹s soccer claimed its fourth straight conference title on Nov. 9. They will seek their eighth national title at home on Nov 15.

    Playing on a worn out field didn’t seem to bother UCSD at all, and although the game was played on the Toro home field, the fan base was overwhelmingly pro-San Diego.

    UCSD got off to a quick start, scoring in the seventh minute. Senior All-American Kristin Jones stole the ball at the top of the 18-yard box. She dribbled around one defender and physically overpowered another before blasting a shot into the upper right V.

    Emphasizing the importance of the first goal, Harrelson said, “”It was the play of the game.”” She herself added the next two goals, both just as spectacular as Jones’ solo display.

    Her first goal followed a foul near the sidelines about 25 yards out. Senior free kick and corner kick specialist Christine Wensel addressed the ball and sent it curving toward the far post. Wensel put the ball right on the money, and Harrelson put it away with a header past Cal State Dominguez Hills keeper Alba Garcia. Overlooking the entire play from the stands, spectators saw the set piece develop, and a cheer went up even before the ball touched the back of the net.

    “”Our thing is to believe in your runs and do your job,”” Harrelson said of the Triton set pieces.

    The combination of Wensel to Harrelson struck again in the 69th minute. Wensel pushed up from her left back position and ran onto a slow rolling pass. She lofted it over the Toro defense, putting the ball high enough in the air for Harrelson to run under it. Harrelson finished the scoring chance with another well-placed header for her second goal and earned Wensel another assist.

    Cal State Dominguez Hills saw the game slipping away from them, and they responded with a quick goal after the restart. Less than 20 seconds after Harrelson’s tally, Cal State Dominguez Hills Nikki Szlak put away a shot from point-blank range past senior goalkeeper Kami Poma.

    “”That’s the time teams come after you,”” UCSD head coach Brian McManus said. “”Two or three minutes after goals, they come out to get you.””

    But the score became an afterthought when freshman Kelly Cochran found fellow freshman Megan Dickey streaking across the top of the box. Dickey corralled the pass and put one across the goal line for a 4-1 advantage. Cal State Dominguez Hills scored a goal against itself to round out the scoring.

    The Triton forwards were more than a match for the staggering Toro defense. The combination of Harrelson’s play in the air, Cochran’s speed up the field and Jones’ all-around experienced game was too much for the Toros. McManus utilized each of his three forwards effectively. He started the game with Harrelson and Jones up top. They were both all over the field, so McManus subbed out Jones in the first half, giving her a much-needed breather, and pushed up Cochran.

    Midway through the second half, McManus subbed Jones back in for Harrelson, rewarding the two-goal scorer for her tenacious play. No matter the combination, the Cal State Dominguez Hills defense had no answers.

    UCSD reached the finals of the four-team tournament by beating Sonoma State 1-0 on Nov. 7 in the semifinals. They finished CCAA play with an overall record of 14-2 and another championship banner.

    Their regular season record and CCAA title were good enough to earn a home field bid to start the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. It is the 13th year in a row that the UCSD women’s team has hosted at least one round of the NCAA tournament.

    It is the 18th straight trip to the NCAA tournament for UCSD, which has qualified ever since the NCAA began holding a national championship at the Division III level in 1986. The Tritons have five national titles in the Division III level and two from their first two years since entering Division II in 2000.

    Their first game will be against fellow CCAA member Cal State San Bernardino on Nov. 15. After playing a hectic schedule filled with make-ups leading up to the CCAA playoffs, the Tritons earned a few days off.

    “”Hopefully we can handle the rest,”” McManus said. “”We’re not used to it.””

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