SAN RAMON, Calif. - The two-time defending California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season champion University of California San Diego women's soccer program is again the favorite to retain its crown, as voted on by the league's 13 members. The 2018 preseason poll was released on Wednesday.
UC San Diego, also the three-time reigning CCAA Tournament champion, accumulated 136 points and seven of a maximum 12 first-place votes. Coaches do not include their own team in the listing. The Tritons went a perfect 12-0 during the 2016 CCAA season, and followed that up with an undefeated 10-0-1 ledger in 2017.
UC San Diego is the league's preseason favorite for the third year running. The Tritons are coming off back-to-back CCAA doubles as regular-season and tourney victors, and in fact turned that into a treble last fall by adding their first West Region crown since 2012. They have appeared in back-to-back West finals, both times against rival Western Washington, who is the opponent for the home opener on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 3:30 p.m.
Sonoma State, whom UC San Diego topped in a thrilling 2017 CCAA final in La Jolla, 4-3, is second in the preseason poll with 129 points and five first-place votes. Cal State LA, the 2016 tourney finalist, is third (126) with the remaining first-place nod. The trio at the top is followed by Cal Poly Pomona (105), Chico State (100), Cal State San Marcos (79), San Francisco State (77), Stanislaus State (75), Cal State San Bernardino (61), Cal State Monterey Bay (36), Humboldt State (35), Cal State East Bay (30) and Cal State Dominguez Hills (25).
The Tritons will be led offensively and defensively by Mary Reilly (Chula Vista/Hilltop HS) and Natalie Saddic (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS), respectively. Reilly is back for a fourth and final season up top, with 33 career goals and as the CCAA's shots leader by a wide margin in each of her first three years. Reilly has added 19 assists for 85 total points as a Triton, and totaled 267 shots in all.
Saddic should be back at her favored position of holding central midfielder after a rash of injuries forced her to center back for the 2017 postseason. The third-year transfer from UC Davis was a unanimous All-American, and the CCAA Defensive Player of the Year and CCAA Tournament Most Valuable Defensive Player last fall.
Saddic and senior winger Summer Bales are the co-captains. Joining Bales and Reilly as fourth-year Tritons are forward Megumi Barber (San Diego/Mt. Carmel HS) and Kelsey Kimball, who is the expected starter at center back after sitting out the entire 2017 season through injury. Barber looks to be Reilly's new strike partner.
True sophomores Delaney Whittet and Natalie Widmer return around Kimball at left and right back, respectively. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Angelica Ramos, the 2017 CCAA Newcomer of the Year, also is back from injury, with sophomore Katie Wilkes having taken over for the three NCAA Championship matches last November after Ramos left the CCAA final with a season-ending injury. Caitlin McCarthy (Carlsbad/Carlsbad HS) remains in central midfield, with fellow true sophomores and locals Michelle Baddour (San Diego/University City HS) and Maddy Samilo (Rancho Bernardo/Rancho Bernardo HS) vying for starting spots in central midfield and on the right wing, respectively. Baddour has taken over the No. 10 shirt.
UC San Diego opens 2018 where it ended 2017 in terms of national ranking, at No. 5 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll. Sonoma State is the only other CCAA club in the listing, at No. 25.
Eleven CCAA squads launch their 2018 season on Thursday, Aug. 30, with the first bit of league action on Wednesday, Sept. 12. For the fifth year in a row, the CCAA schedule will consist of a single round robin, with all teams meeting once for 12 matches total, and the top six sides in the final regular-season standings qualifying for the 2018 CCAA Tournament. For the second consecutive year and fifth time in all, the conference semifinals and final will be hosted by UC San Diego at Triton Soccer Stadium. Two women's and two men's semifinals will take place on Friday, Nov. 2, with the finals on Sunday, Nov. 4. Exact times are to be determined. The tourney winner will once again earn the CCAA's automatic NCAA Championship bid.
UC San Diego will make the short trip north to Irvine to kick things off on Thursday, Aug. 30, at Concordia Irvine at 3:30 p.m. That will serve as the lead-in to the marquee showdown with No. 7 Western Washington two days later at Triton Soccer Stadium. Both parking and admission will be free that day on North Campus in La Jolla. Entry to all regular-season home contests is once again free.
UC San Diego is 24-0-1 over its last 25 CCAA contests for a league-record unbeaten streak, and 32-0-2 in its last 34 games against CCAA foes in all competitions.
2018 CCAA WOMEN'S SOCCER PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
1. #5 UC San Diego, 136 (7)
2. #25 Sonoma State, 129 (5)
3. Cal State LA, 126 (1)
4. Cal Poly Pomona, 105
5. Chico State, 100
6. Cal State San Marcos, 79
7. San Francisco State, 77
8. Stanislaus State, 75
9. Cal State San Bernardino, 61
10. Cal State Monterey Bay, 36
11. Humboldt State, 35
12. Cal State East Bay, 30
13. Cal State Dominguez Hills, 25