LA JOLLA, Calif. - Expectations for the University of California San Diego women's soccer program are always high.
National championship-level high, and this year is no different for the reigning California Collegiate Athletic Associaiton (CCAA) regular-season, CCAA Tournament and NCAA Division II West Region champion Tritons.
UC San Diego reported back to campus over the weekend, and took the field for the first time as a group ahead of the 2018 season on Monday morning, Aug. 13.
The Tritons, ranked No. 5 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll, went through a second successive double day on Tuesday, with one more to follow this week on Thursday. Assistant coaches Kristin Jones and Trent Painter still have a handful of cuts to make following Friday's single session.
UC San Diego stands exactly two weeks out from kicking off the new campaign in Irvine on Thursday, Aug. 30. The opponent for the first of six non-conference tilts is Concordia Irvine. On Saturday, Sept. 1, comes the home opener, a marquee showdown with seventh-ranked rival Western Washington at Triton Soccer Stadium on North Campus in La Jolla. Kickoff for both of those affairs is set for 3:30 p.m. Attendance and parking will be free that Saturday at home, where UC San Diego is a near-perfect 19-0-1 over its last 20 matches.
The Tritons went 17-2-3 overall and an unbeaten 10-0-1 in the CCAA last year. The 2017 treble winners are the league's back-to-back regular-season champions, with three successive tourney banners. They are 24-0-1 over the past 25 conference games, the streak marking a CCAA record.
Team co-captains for 2018 have been designated as All-American redshirt junior holding central midfielder Natalie Saddic (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS), and fourth-year senior winger Summer Bales (Temecula/Great Oak HS). Remaining award-winning returners include fourth-year senior striker Mary Reilly (Chula Vista/Hilltop HS) and redshirt junior goalkeeper Angelica Ramos (San Clemente/JSerra Catholic HS).
We caught up with Triton great Jones, entering her 19th consecutive season in the program, and Saddic. Watch the video to hear more from each.
ASSISTANT COACH KRISTIN JONES
• "From a training standpoint, (the players) obviously did what they were supposed to do this summer, and that shows. We have not had a ton of injuries. Usually, that's a good indicator of how hard they've worked. We've had pretty much every player on the field for all sessions, which is good."
• "A big part of it is going to be instilling some cultural values that we have and that are very important for our program and the success of our program. That will come easily, because the leaders are doing their part."
• "Naturally, everyone's going to be excited for the Western game, but in no way, shape or form are we going to overlook Concordia. They are a talented team. They have a good home record and going up there is going to be a challenge. Then we can move on to Western, and the adrenaline of that rivalry will take over that game. Having them at home helps. We're excited for both of those games before we get on the road for Hawaii."
• "We're very heavy in the center of midfield. We've got a lot of good soccer players in there, but there are some kids who are going to come in and challenge that. We've got a ton of speed out wide, which is a good problem to have. Having the kids buy in whether they're starting or coming off the bench, everyone is going to be equally as important."
REDSHIRT JUNIOR CENTRAL MIDFIELDER NATALIE SADDIC
• "It's easy to say that I'm excited for the Hawaii trip. More than anything, that will be a good team bonding trip for all of us to get to know each other since it's so early on. We'll all be traveling together. I'm also excited to play Western again."
• "I'm working on being a leader off the field. I know how to do it on the field, but off the field is an adjustment, especially when we're dealing with new people coming in, and working on team chemistry and how people get along. It's hard to know when to step in, and when to keep your place and let people work their own things out. I'm ready to be a leader on the field, and show everyone my own strength in order to motivate them to do what they can, and what they're capable of on the field"