UCSD spring sports wrap up a season of firsts

    There’s a first time for everything.

    The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, a team many hockey fans likened to the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, fought its way to a first-place finish and reached the conference finals this year for the first time in franchise history. The PGA’s Phil Mickelson has finally won a major tournament, erasing doubts about whether he could really win the big one. For the first time in a long time, the MLB’s Detroit Tigers are actually playing well, at least according to the standings. After flirting with baseball’s all-time regular season loss record, the Tigers are 15-17, almost a .500 team.

    If you’ve been following UCSD sports lately — religiously or casually — you should have noticed that our spring sports teams have come up with surprises of their own. We were always known for our fall sports teams, but this spring, our teams have given us a good reason for our support, exceeding expectations.

    Baseball, for the first time since UCSD’s move to Division II, came up huge at the tail end of the season to secure a spot in the playoffs. The Tritons were tied for fourth place with San Francisco State late in the season and needed to win their last game to earn a playoff berth. They won the games and it was only fitting that a graduating senior, Raf Bergstrom, threw a complete game to prolong his team’s season. The Tritons were unfortunately ousted, but now they can claim playoff exposure and capitalize on its postseason experience next year.

    Women’s tennis stormed out at the beginning of the season and never let up, going undefeated in conference play this year. The Tritons also captured their first-ever California Collegiate Athletic Association championship — becoming only the second team besides the women’s soccer team to earn this coveted title. They had a solid playoff run, advancing to the second round, but unfortunately came up just short to Hawaii-Hilo. Don’t be surprised to see them take a serious run at Nationals next year; four players were selected to the First-Team All-CCAA and they are all returning students.

    Golf had an awesome season, earning its first-ever Division II Men’s Golf Championships bid while consistently maintaining its ranking in the top 10. UCSD won the Division III national championship 11 years ago and it may be time for the Tritons to do it again.

    The UCSD men’s tennis team is in Florida playing in its first NCAA Division II National Championships. After falling short to Hawaii teams in the playoffs, the Tritons pounded Hawaii-Hilo to earn themselves a trip to Nationals. This may be their best chance yet since they’re on a six-match winning streak and it’s the last year for many players on the starting lineup. The men’s tennis team flew to Florida feeling confident, and if they continue the level of tennis they’ve played lately, they can really win it this time.

    Our track and field team deserves props, too. It recently hosted the Triton Invitational with over 800 athletes competing, including Olympic medalists, world champions and international track and field stars. UCSD came up big at home and set two school records from the men’s and women’s teams. If you’ve been following the team, you know that many track and field athletes have been setting school records the whole season. Although our men’s volleyball team missed the playoffs, it achieved its best conference record since joining the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation league in 1993, 4-18. While UCSD will always have to contend with national powerhouses like Long Beach State, BYU and UCLA, it continues to make progress.

    Women’s crew also had a first this season. For the first time, they consistently placed in the top-five in the national rankings and performed solidly throughout the season.

    It’s been a season of many firsts for UCSD athletics. Give the teams the credit they deserve.

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