Women's soccer heads to Final

    The UCSD women’s soccer team will open up its half of the NCAA Division II Final Four on Dec. 4 when it takes on the seventh-ranked Franklin Pierce Ravens of New Hampshire.

    Hila Moyal
    Guardian file

    Franklin Pierce is no stranger to the NCAA playoffs, nor the Final Four. This year marks the 12th time in a row it has reached the Final Four, an NCAA Division II record. It captured the championship each year from 1994 to 1997 and again in 1999. The Ravens feature a number of foreign-born players with years of experience in the tough European leagues under their belts. Two of the players have even competed at the national level for the Republic of Ireland.

    But UCSD has also tasted victory, and much more recently. The Tritons were NCAA champions their first two years in Division II, in 2000 and 2001. They are looking for their third title in four years.

    The following are a few key matchups for the game.

    Ravens Meghan Welcome and Laura Hislop vs. the Triton defense

    Franklin Pierce junior striker Meghan Welcome is the reigning Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year and earned All-America First Team Honors for 2003. She scored a whopping 27 goals in 22 games during the season and totaled 63 points off of 76 shots. Yet she was still outdone by teammate sophomore forward Laura Hislop, who tallied 30 goals and 23 assists for 83 points, leading her conference in each category. She is a veteran of the Republic of Ireland’s national team, originally from Belfast.

    The only good news for the Tritons is that no other Raven was in double digits for goals scored. Triton outside backs Christine Wensel and Molly Carlson will attempt to limit the two Franklin Pierce stars’ touches. If the two senior All-California Collegiate Athletic Association defenders can shadow their marks well enough to allow sweeper and 2002 CCAA Freshman of the Year Heather Szafraniec to double team, UCSD could make it a rough day for the two forwards.

    Raven Sonya Hugher vs. Tritons Kristen Conahan and Sarah Schopbach

    Raven Sonya Hugher will be seeing a lot of the two senior Triton midfielders throughout the day. Hugher is fit enough to both help out on defense and still be able to contribute to the offensive attack. She was second on the team in goals and assists, with seven and 18 respectively. Like Hislop, Hugher is a veteran of the Republic of Ireland women’s national squad. When she pushes up on the attack, expect All-CCAA Honorable Mention Sarah Schopbach to pick her up.

    If All-CCAA First Team midfielder Conahan can make something happen in the UCSD offensive third, Hugher will be forced to hang back to mark her. With senior midfielder and CCAA First-Team member Megan Mendoza likely on the sidelines due to injury, Schopbach and Conahan might feel a little added pressure to contain Hugher.

    Ravens Aase Kibsgaard and Martta Makila vs. Tritons Kristin Jones and Kelly Cochran

    UCSD’s senior Kristin Jones and freshman Kelly Cochran offer the flipside of the Ravens’ Welcome and Hislop. Although not putting up the staggering statistics the two Franklin Pierce stars did this season, it would be unwise to underestimate either UCSD forward. Jones is the two-time CCAA Player of the Year and a 2002 Second Team All-America member. She led the Tritons in scoring, including two clutch goals in the NCAA quarterfinal match against top-ranked Metro State.

    Cochran is the second UCSD player to win CCAA Freshman of the Year honors in two consecutive years, following Szafraniec. Her light feet and ball-handling skills have eaten up opposing defenses all year, as evidenced by her 22 points, second on the team.

    Jones, Cochran and the rest of the UCSD offense will have to solve the Scandinavian duo of goalkeeper Aase Kibsgaard (Norway) and defender Martta Makila (Finland). Both were All-Northeast-10 Conference players and NCAA All-New England team members. Kibsgaard posted 0.77 goals against average in 2002, good for 12th in the nation.

    The match will take place at 8 p.m. EST in Virginia Beach, Va. It follows the first semifinal match, pitting second-ranked Kennesaw State (Georgia) against the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The Tritons come in ranked third. The winners of the semifinal matches will play on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m.

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