UCSD Soccer: A Tale of Two Seasons

Markets, basketball franchises and the next majority party in the House are three things politicos, pundits and investment bankers all agree are subject to the power of “the cycle.”

Pundits blame “the cycle” for the Lakers’ last three disappointing seasons since the team won back-to-back rings in 2009 and 2010.

But for UCSD soccer, no such “cycle” exists. After a season when the men’s team made its first NCAA appearance in a decade and the women failed to qualify for the tournament for the first time since UCSD moved to Division II, don’t expect this abrupt reversal of fortune to continue.

Here’s why.

For the men’s team, the recent upswing quite clearly correlates with the addition of UCSD head coach Jon Pascale to the Triton coaching staff. Pascale, a two-time CCAA Coach of the Year, has been at the helm for six seasons, and each year, the Tritons have inched closer to the postseason.

To the casual observer, the seasons preceding the team’s historic postseason run would seem unremarkable. But in 2012, the Tritons were snubbed from a playoff appearance due to a technicality imposed at the beginning of the season to make up for a Humboldt State team barred from the playoffs. And the season before, UCSD was just one game shy of a conference tournament berth.

So, why were the men so successful this season? Not to be reductive, but senior central midfielder Andisheh Bagheri’s explosive senior season and the addition of hard-nosed junior transfer holding forward Alessandro Canale were two major ingredients. Bagheri scored just two goals in his first three seasons, but this year, he provided six game-winning goals. Canale enabled the Tritons to build up the attack and was also a much-needed target in the box, muscling his way around — and often through — defenders.

This sudden offensive boom, coupled with a defense that featured top-notch senior goalkeeper Josh Cohen, was a recipe for success. The Tritons will graduate a good deal of this season’s squad, but without major regime changes, UCSD should see continued success.

The women’s team, however, did not qualify for the conference tournament, despite being the NCAA national runners-up in 2012, but there’s nothing to suggest that this season will mark the beginning of UCSD’s bear market.

UCSD graduated 10 Tritons in 2013 — the core of the midfield and back line — but the coaches found gems in freshmen, forward Jamie Benedetto and outside backs Kylee Southwell and Kristen Sampietro.

But the UCSD women are also in good hands, under the leadership of 27-season head coach Brian McManus, who has the seventh-highest career-winning percentage in NCAA history.

McManus’s Tritons have never been subject to a multiple-season slump, and it’s unlikely that 2013 will begin a downward trend.

And I bet that the coaches from around the CCAA would agree. Ten bucks says in spite of this season’s results, next season, UCSD ranks in the top two of the conference’s annual Preseason Coaches’ Poll.