Photo by: Andy Wilhelm
Matt Merrill is back for one final season in the holding central midfield role for the Tritons.

Triton Men's Soccer Picked to Place Third in Tight CCAA Race


SAN RAMON, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's soccer team has been picked to finish third in the 2018 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) race, as voted on by the league's 13 head coaches in the preseason poll released Tuesday.

UC San Diego went 10-2-5 overall and 7-1-3 in CCAA play a year ago. The Tritons had wound up third in the final league table. However, Cal State Dominguez Hills was forced to vacate its regular-season title last week due to uncovered infractions, with UC San Diego moving up to second through adjustments made following the application of nullification penalties by the CCAA. The Tritons have earned five consecutive postseason berths, with three NCAA Championship trips in that period.

UC San Diego collected 125 points and one of the 13 first-place votes. Fourth-ranked defending West Region champion and 2017 national semifinalist Cal Poly Pomona is the favorite with 129 points and four first-place votes. Cal State LA, the 2017 CCAA Tournament champion in La Jolla, is second, just three points behind with 126, and in fact one more first-place nod than CPP, at five. Chico State takes up the fourth spot (106). San Francisco State is fifth (101) with a first-place vote. Cal State San Bernardino (83) rounds out the projected CCAA tourney field. In seventh, Cal State Dominguez Hills (78) still managed the final two first-place votes.

Sonoma State (68), Stanislaus State (55), Cal State Monterey Bay (46), Humboldt State (46), Cal State San Marcos (32) and Cal State East Bay (19) filled out the poll.

Jon Pascale, the three-time CCAA Coach of the Year, is entering his 11th season at the helm. Fifth-year seniors Christian Cordell, Matt Merrill and Jeff Powers return, and are the projected starters on the right side of midfield, holding central midfield, and right back, respectively. Next to Powers across the back line are likely to be redshirt freshman Oliver Nelson, junior Kelvin Uribe and junior newcomer Stjepan Kilic, a transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson.

Another transfer, Icelandic sophomore Jón Veigar Kristjánsson from USC Upstate, is the expected partner to Merrill in central midfield. Redshirt junior Andy Sartor, who sat out last season through injury, could play opposite Cordell. Much will be expected in their sophomore go-arounds from the speedy strike tandem of Brett Jones and Jonathan Sabouri (Carlsbad/San Dieguito HS Academy). Sophomore Pedro Enciso (Vista/Rancho Buena Vista HS) is the incumbent between the posts.

Veterans in the mix include seniors Nathaniel Bloom (Encinitas/San Dieguito HS Academy) and Kiefer Cooksey, and junior Jonathan Stoop. Powers, Sabouri and Uribe all picked up All-CCAA honorable mentions last fall.

UC San Diego was 17th nationally in 2017 in team goals-against average at 0.76, and has thus ranked in the top 17 in Division II in five of the past six seasons.

Nine CCAA squads launch their 2018 season this 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 men's and two women'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 earns the CCAA's automatic NCAA Championship bid.

UC San Diego charges into 2018 with the longest homestand in known program history, of 10 matches. For a second successive season, it all begins against Biola, as the Tritons will look to avenge a scoreless draw in La Mirada a year ago. The primetime kickoff this Thursday night, Aug. 30, is set for 7 p.m. at Triton Soccer Stadium on North Campus in La Jolla. Admission into regular-season home matches is once again free. Parking is only free on weekends.

1. #4 Cal Poly Pomona, 129 (4)
2. Cal State LA, 126 (5)
3. UC San Diego, 125 (1)
4. Chico State, 106
5. San Francisco State, 101 (1)
6. Cal State San Bernardino, 83
7. Cal State Dominguez Hills, 78 (2)
8. Sonoma State, 68
9. Stanislaus State, 55
T-10. Cal State Monterey Bay, 46
T-10. Humboldt State, 46
12. Cal State San Marcos, 32
13. Cal State East Bay, 19

(first-place votes)


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