UCSD Rises to Top of CCAA

    Freshman midfielder Shelby Wong holds off a Cal Poly Pomona opponent as she dribbles the ball down field. The Tritons shut out the Broncos 2-0 at home on Sept. 27, improving their record to 7-1-1.

    WOMEN’S SOCCER — “Every game is a war,” said head coach Brian McManus of his top-ranking squad.

    The UCSD women’s soccer team is the primary target in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. Picked by the coaches of the conference to win the south division, the Tritons just want to make it through their conference schedule.

    “We have the most difficult conference in the country in Division II,” McManus said. “Our goal is to make it to the conference playoffs and anything is possible from there.”

    The team is already well on its way to the playoffs. Currently, UCSD sits atop the south division with a 7-1-1 overall record and a 3-1-conference record.

    Opening the season in Washington, UCSD posted victories over Central Washington University 2-0 and Western Washington University 2-1 in overtime. Junior midfielder Alexia Zatarain was the hero against WWU, scoring both goals for the Tritons. The two wins catapulted the Tritons to a No. 3 ranking in the nation.

    UCSD finished its preseason play with a double-overtime tie against Cal State San Marcos 0-0 and a 4-0 demolition of Texas A&M University-Commerce.
    After losing at San Francisco State to open up CCAA play, the Tritons rallied off four straight victories.

    The most recent victory came against Cal Poly Pomona on Sept. 26. Two first-half goals by senior forward Natasha Belak-Berger led the Tritons to the victory. Her first came in the 29th minute on a laser from 15 yards out, and the second came just before halftime when she out-maneuvered the Bronco goalie and sent the shot to the back of the net.

    In what McManus considered one of the team’s worst performances of the season, UCSD still found a way to win.

    “You’re going to win some games playing well, and others ugly,” he said. “Our players have set a benchmark, and that is to find a way to win. We were able to do it against [Cal Poly Pomona].”

    UCSD is captained by its four seniors, who lead a team with 14 talented freshmen. According to McManus, the recruiting class has been plucked from some of nation’s most elite club teams.

    “All I want the freshmen to do is play like they did for their clubs,” he said. “They all came from good club teams and my goal is for them to keep enjoying the game.”

    While chemistry would be an expected problem for most teams fielding so many fresh faces, the Tritons are very close already, according to McManus.

    Annually one of the premier programs in the country, the Tritons are trying to avenge a devastating loss at the hands of rival Cal State Dominguez Hills in the NCAA Regional last season. The four seniors are leading the charge back to the NCAA Championships, a level the team expected to be at last season.

    “The players that were able to play last year did an incredible job just getting to regionals,” McManus said. “But we were crippled by injuries late in the season. Losing to a rival is hard.”

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