Tritons Decimate Western Foes

    The NCAA Division II Far West Regional Championship is supposed to pit the area’s four best teams against one another. If this is true, Western Washington University and Seattle Pacific University will plead no contest to the UCSD women’s soccer team being named the best team in its region.

    Sanh Luong/Guardian
    Junior midfielder Ali Lai dodges a defender in the Tritons’ overwhelming 3-0 victory over Seattle Pacific University on Nov. 4.

    The Tritons dominated regional competition, shutting out Western Washington University 4-0 and Seattle Pacific University 3-0 on Nov. 2 and Nov. 4, respectively.

    “”[Seattle Pacific University] had great chances but couldn’t score,”” senior midfielder Kelly Cochran said. “”Everyone had a great attitude and put forth an awesome effort and we won.””

    The Tritons extended their unbeaten streak to 15 games, going 13-0-2 during the stretch, running the overall record to 20-1-2.

    “”We’ve done what we’ve needed to do,”” head coach Brian McManus said. “”There are some games where we’ve played ugly but we’ve won. You’re not going to play pretty every game but if you come out with the win, that’s what matters.””

    UCSD matched up against Western Washington University in the semifinal match on Nov. 2 and struck early. Junior forward Kathy Sepulveda took a throw-in, strode down the sideline, crossed up a Viking defender and netted her 11th goal of the season to put the Tritons up 1-0 in the eighth minute.

    Sepulveda added her second goal of the game in the 49th minute off a Viking turnover. The goal put UCSD in command 2-0.

    “”That second goal gives you a big lift and a second breath,”” McManus said. “”Just beginning the second half, it really gave a huge momentum swing toward us and deflated [Seattle Pacific University].””

    Only 30 seconds later, Cochran put the team up by three, scoring on a strike from 18 yards out.

    The ball tipped off the Western Washington University keeper and just crossed the goal line before a Viking defender could reach it.

    “”I didn’t think it was going in because I didn’t get enough power because it was my left foot and off balance,”” Cochran said. “”When it did, I was pretty excited.””

    Junior defender Nicole Pepper scored for the Tritons, netting her first goal of the season in the 88th minute to cement the UCSD victory.

    The Triton defense did an outstanding job, allowing only four shots on goal, as sophomore goalkeepers Jessica McGovern and Mia Shirley recorded two saves a piece.

    McManus praised his defense’s effort.

    “”The back three have played well all season,”” McManus said. “”They’re not the tallest or the quickest but when they want to play, they’re some of the best.””

    According to McManus, the defense’s success comes from its cohesiveness and team mentality.

    “”They don’t get themselves in trouble so they don’t have to be the fastest or biggest,”” he said. “”They pass well and they pinch the ball well and they stand up players and rarely get beat.””

    UCSD moved onto the finals against Seattle Pacific University, a rematch from last year’s Division II Far West regionals, which the Falcons won 2-0 en route to eventually finishing second place in the national title match.

    McManus said that last year’s bitter disappointment has left much to be desired for this year’s campaign.

    “”We felt last year, we outplayed them and didn’t score,”” he said. “”We knew it would be a very even game. The defense took away their two great chances and we created four or five great chances and scored.””

    The Tritons, like the previous game, struck first with a corner kick from junior midfielder Caitlin Ryan. The kick fooled Falcon goalkeeper Katie Ruggles as the ball went sailing over her head untouched into the far corner, putting UCSD up 1-0.

    In the second half, senior midfielder Megan Dickey collected a cross from Sepulveda and blasted it to the low left corner in the 57th minute for a 2-0 lead.

    Cochran, who played a key role on Dickey’s goal, faking out two defenders and by allowing Dickey an open shot, scored her own goal 10 minutes later, pushing UCSD’s lead to 3-0 for the Triton win.

    “”It was a little bit less about the team and more about getting past the second round,”” Cochran said. “”I just wanted to beat whoever we played so we could move on. It didn’t matter that it was Seattle Pacific, we just wanted to win.””

    The Tritons move on to play Metropolitan State College of Denver, which beat St. Edward’s University in the Midwest Regional Final.

    Metro State will host UCSD on Nov. 11 in the quarterfinal match, and McManus knows the pressure will build as the team moves deeper into the NCAA tournament.

    “”The teams are only going to get better,”” McManus said.

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