SAN RAMON, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's soccer team is the favorite to repeat as the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) champion, as voted on by league head coaches in the 2017 preseason poll released Wednesday.
UC San Diego is coming off of its greatest season in 17 at the NCAA Division II level, going 19-3-2 overall while picking up three trophies, all program firsts, during a run to the national semifinals. The Tritons fell 2-0 there to eventual national champion Wingate (NC) in Kansas City, Mo. Their treble included CCAA regular-season and tournament banners ahead of the West Region crown. UCSD has made four straight postseason appearances, with three NCAA Championship berths in that time.
UCSD accumulated 130 points and eight of the 13 first-place votes to sit atop the poll after being picked fifth a year ago and loudly defying that prognostication. Cal State LA and 2016 CCAA Tournament finalist Sonoma State share the second spot, each with 118 points and one first-place nod. Cal Poly Pomona is fourth with 116 points and the remaining three first-place votes. The Tritons shocked the Broncos 2-1 in Pomona on the final day to steal the CCAA regular-season title, and also turned the 2015 West Region champions and national runners-up away in the West final in front of the home crowd, 1-0 in overtime.
Cal State Dominguez Hills, the 2015 CCAA regular-season victor, is fifth (105), followed by Chico State (96), SF State (77), Cal State San Bernardino (73), Stanislaus State, (51), Cal State San Marcos (49), Cal State Monterey Bay (33), Humboldt State (25) and Cal State East Bay (23).
Jon Pascale, the three-time and reigning CCAA Coach of the Year entering his 10th year in charge, is seven wins shy of milestone No. 100. He will have to replace eight valuable seniors, but still has a bevy of veterans to rely on in 2017. Included in that group are Malek Bashti, Christian Cordell, Uly de la Cal, Danny Glascock, Zachary Lagotta (San Diego/Cathedral Catholic HS), Nolan Mac, Matt Merrill, Steven Ortiz, Kyle Panganiban, Jeff Powers and Eric Young, all seniors academically or athletically. Bashti and Mac picked up All-CCAA honorable mentions a season ago, and Lagotta in 2015, with de la Cal the top returning point-getter with 16 from four goals and a team-best eight assists in 2016. Bashti, Lagotta, Mac, Merrill and Powers were regular starters, at forward, right winger, left back, holding central midfielder and right back, respectively. Fifth-year Triton Bashti had three goals and seven assists.
UC San Diego was fourth nationally in team goals-against average at 0.52, and has thus ranked in the top seven in Division II in four of the past five seasons. On the other end, the Tritons led the league with 39 goals scored.
UCSD heads into 2017 where it wound up in 2016 in terms of national ranking, at No. 4 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll. Cal Poly Pomona is the only other CCAA club in the listing, at No. 15.
Twelve of 13 CCAA squads launch their 2017 season on Thursday, Aug. 31, with league action beginning on Friday, Sept. 15. For the fourth 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 2017 CCAA Tournament. The conference semifinals and final will be hosted by UC San Diego for just the fourth time, and first since 2008, at Triton Soccer Stadium. Two men's and two women's semifinals will take place on Friday, Nov. 3, with the finals on Sunday, Nov. 5. Exact times are to be determined.
UC San Diego starts off the 2017 campaign at new Division II foe Biola University in La Mirada on Thursday night, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. Having finished 2016 an unbeaten 12-0-1 at home, UCSD welcomes Occidental College into Triton Soccer Stadium on North Campus in La Jolla on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 5 p.m. Admission to regular-season matches in La Jolla is once again free.
2017 CCAA MEN'S SOCCER PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
1. #4 UC San Diego, 130 (8)
T-2. Cal State LA, 118 (1)
T-2. Sonoma State, 118 (1)
4. #15 Cal Poly Pomona, 116 (3)
5. Cal State Dominguez Hills, 105
6. Chico State, 96
7. SF State, 77
8. Cal State San Bernardino, 73
9. Stanislaus State, 51
10. Cal State San Marcos, 49
11. Cal State Monterey Bay, 33
12. Humboldt State, 25
13. Cal State East Bay, 23