UCSD Earns Third Seed Despite Struggles

    The women’s soccer team will need to turn around its offense, which failed to score in the last two games of the regular season, if the Tritons want to go far in the CCAA Championships on Nov. 7-9. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

    WOMEN’S SOCCER — The stage is set for the No. 20 UCSD women’s soccer team. Winning two games would more than guarantee the team a spot in the NCAA Division-II National Tournament. One loss and the team will have to bite its fingernails while it awaits the 48-team field to be announced.

    Despite going winless in three of their last four contests, the Tritons secured a spot in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships with a 0-0 tie against Cal State San Bernardino on Oct. 31.

    “This past weekend definitely wasn’t our best play, but it also wasn’t our worst,” senior forward Natasha Belak-Berger said. “The team is up for the matches this weekend and we’ll be ready.”

    UCSD owns the third seed heading into the championships, to be held at RIMAC Field. The Tritons will face off against second-seeded San Francisco State Nov. 7, one of only three teams to defeat the Tritons this season. The winner will move on to face either Sonoma State or Cal State Dominguez Hills in the finals.

    After entering the CCAA in 2000, the Tritons have dominated the conference — qualifying for nine straight CCAA Championships and winning six of them.

    “Our players are dedicated to the game and work very hard,” head coach Brian McManus said.

    With a chance to clinch the top seed in the CCAA Championships over the weekend, the Tritons battled to another double-overtime thriller with Cal State San Bernardino, this time ending in a scoreless tie. The tie was followed by a lackluster performance at Cal Poly Pomona where UCSD fell 2-0 Nov. 2.

    The Broncos got on the board in the 21st minute when their forward snuck the ball by senior Triton goalkeeper Jessica McGovern. They would tally the second goal in the final seconds of the game to secure the win.

    UCSD outshot Cal Poly Pomona 8-7 but couldn’t figure out the Broncos’ substitute goalie, who came into the match when the starting goalie was injured.

    While the performance was substandard for the club, it was understandable as the Tritons were coming off an emotional 0-0 double-overtime tie against Cal State San Bernardino. The tie all but locked up a postseason spot for UCSD while eliminating the Coyotes.

    The Triton defense turned in its third consecutive shutout, but this time the Triton offense couldn’t get the golden goal to support the defense. After scoring 11 times in five games, the UCSD offense has fallen flat, scoring only once in the team’s final four matches.

    “We’re not worried about these past four games affecting our performance,” Belak-Berger said. “If nothing else, it will inspire us to want it that much more. We had some players out this weekend because of injury but they should be ready to go this Friday.”

    To make a legitimate playoff run, the Tritons are going to need scores from Belak-Berger, who leads all Tritons with 11 goals, and senior midfielder Loren Borenstein, who has four.

    “We’re not going to do anything different,” McManus said. “We’ve had the same shots and the same opportunities, but haven’t found the back of the net.”

    Looking ahead to the matchup against the Gators on Friday, UCSD owns the all-time series 9-2-1 against San Francisco State despite the loss earlier this season. McManus said the team will try to close down the Gators’ opportunities on set plays.
    “They score most of their goals on set plays like corner kicks and free kicks,” he said. “We’re working on trying to mark the right way against a very athletic team … It will be a tough match but we’re excited to try and avenge the earlier loss to them.”

    UCSD will take on San Francisco State at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 7 at RIMAC Field.

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