Women’s soccer bids farewell to nine seniors

    As the 2003-04 sports season winds down at UCSD, it’s a proper time to look back at the athletes who have given four years to their respective programs and will not be able to don the Triton blue and gold for another go-around. Many senior student-athletes with great individual accomplishments will be sent off this year. Yet no group of seniors has been more decorated, victorious or vital to its team than the nine seniors from the women’s soccer squad.

    They were nine of the regular starters anchoring the best starting lineup in the 2003 California Collegiate Athletic Association. Over the past three years, these nine have combined for five All-CCAA First Team selections, six on the Second Team, two Honorable Mentions and one CCAA MVP, while helping coach Brian McManus to two CCAA Coach of the Year honors. They went 4-for-4 in CCAA Championships and brought home two Division II National titles.

    Molly Carlson and Christine Wensel secured the defense in front of goalkeeper Kami Poma. Kristin Jones, Shannon Harrelson and Kristen Conahan finished past overmatched opponents. Amy Goker, Sarah Schopbach and Megan Mendoza controlled play in the midfield.

    “I would like to give the seniors a big thank you for taking UCSD into Division II and bringing home two National Championships,” McManus said. “The women’s soccer program is a better program for having you all play and represent the school. Yes, we should have won it this past season, but I guess it was in the stars not to be.”

    They had the skills and a magnificent coach, but one could hardly doubt that their success was equally a result of these nine players sticking together for so long. With majors ranging from communication to biochemistry, from management science to anthropology, it was a diverse group.

    “It was difficult to connect as freshmen,” Wensel said. “But by the time we were seniors, we knew each other so well and all nine girls had such skill, we could just place the ball at each other’s feet.”

    The previous accomplishments of the program were also factors in their success.

    “The tradition and legacy goes way beyond us,” Mendoza said. “It helped us buy into the system we were playing, and believe in it.”

    “You don’t have to be friends with your teammates, but we were all friends — on and off the field — and it definitely helped,” Goker said.

    The camaraderie extended off of the field. From polka dancing in the “Seniors” van on road trips, to partying in Miami Beach after their first NCAA title, the group clicked well together.

    “We were also really close to Brian,” Goker said.

    In fact, they were close enough to bet their coach on two separate occasions that they would win a National Championship — and win both times.

    “He has a tattoo of a Triton on his arm now,” Poma said. “And he had to rent a kilt and wear it to our banquet the other time.”

    With the titles, awards and attendance records, no one can question the Tritons’ ability and drive to win. The only question that seems to remain is: How can the team cope after losing so many great seniors?

    “The transition is tough,” Wensel said. “I think they’ll do just as well as we did.”

    “My advice would be not to second-guess the traditions,” Mendoza said. “Those traditions could range from tattooing your coach to winning championships. Either way, somehow there is a link between the two that maybe only the team could understand.”

    For now, the nine seniors will be content with the legacy they are leaving behind, one that would be difficult to beat in any sport.

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