SAN RAMON, Calif. - The University of California San Diego women's soccer team is the unanimous favorite to repeat as champion of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), as voted on by the league's 13 head coaches for the 2017 preseason poll which was released on Tuesday.
The Tritons garnered 144 points due largely to the 12 first-place nods. Head coaches do not include their own side in their listing. UCSD went a perfect 12-0 during the 2016 CCAA slate to earn the regular-season banner, before two more wins gave Brian McManus' Tritons a second consecutive and record 10th CCAA Tournament crown and conference double. UCSD was also the preseason favorite heading into that campaign, finishing 19-3 overall after falling to eventual national champion Western Washington in the West Region final in Golden, Colo., 2-1 in overtime.
Sonoma State, the 2015 regular-season champion, sits in the second position in the poll with 128 points. Cal Poly Pomona, the recipient of McManus' first-place vote, is third (104) and followed closely by Cal State LA (103), which suffered a 2-0 defeat to UCSD in the 2016 CCAA Tournament final in Turlock. Chico State (98), Stanislaus State (97) and Cal State San Bernardino (95) formed a close cluster for fifth through seventh. City rival Cal State San Marcos and SF State shared the eighth rung at 64 points apiece. Cal State Dominguez Hills (37), Cal State East Bay (30), Humboldt State (27) and Cal State Monterey Bay (23) rounded out the 2017 edition of the poll.
McManus, the 2016 and record six-time CCAA Coach of the Year, enters his 31st season at the helm with the most wins, 484, in NCAA Division II women's soccer history. He is fourth among all divisions, and approaching his milestone 500th. He saw his entire starting 11 from 2016 recognized in some fashion with postseason CCAA athletic honors, including seven of 11 first-teamers, with an incredible seven student-athletes gaining All-America consideration by one or both award entities.
Seven of those 11 return, led by Division 2 Conference Commissioners Association West Region Player of the Year and CCAA Offensive Player of the Year Katie O'Laughlin (Carlsbad/Pacific Ridge School), a senior All-American whose 16 goals and 41 points were best in the West. Unfortunately for Triton opponents, her lethal strike partner and fellow San Diego product Mary Reilly (Chula Vista/Hilltop HS), is also back. Reilly, a junior, added 35 points from 13 goals and nine assists, comfortably leading the CCAA in shots taken for a second successive season. The duo finished 1-2 on the CCAA goals chart for the second year in a row, with their places reversed in 2016. They made up the West's top goal-scoring tandem.
The other two All-CCAA First Team returners are winger Jordyn McNutt (San Diego/University City HS) and right back Makenzie Brito, both seniors. McNutt has paced the CCAA in assists in all three of her seasons, with her 29 career helpers within 10 of matching the program's all-time record.
Senior left back Aimee Ellis, redshirt sophomore holding central midfielder Natalie Saddic (San Diego/UC Davis/Torrey Pines HS) and senior central midfielder Elisa Martinez (El Cajon/University of Sioux Falls/Francis Parker School) are the remaining starters back. They are joined by the likes of Brie Diaz and fellow senior Taylor Ramos (San Diego/Coronado HS), as well as the junior trio of Summer Bales, Megumi Barber (San Diego/Mt. Carmel HS) and Kelsey Kimball.
UCSD opens 2017 where it ended 2016 in terms of national ranking, at No. 10 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll. Sonoma State is the only other CCAA club in the listing, at No. 22.
All 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 women's and two men's semifinals will take place on Friday, Nov. 3, with the finals on Sunday, Nov. 5. Exact times are to be determined. The tourney winner will once again earn the CCAA's automatic NCAA Championship bid.
After a primetime exhibition across town at Division I city rival University of San Diego at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25, inside Torero Stadium, UC San Diego kicks things off for real on Thursday night, Aug. 31. The first of three straight home tilts at Triton Soccer Stadium on North Campus in La Jolla, is set for a 7 p.m. start against another San Diego rival in Point Loma, the 2014 and 2015 Pacific West Conference champion. Admission to regular-season contests in La Jolla is once again free.
2017 CCAA WOMEN'S SOCCER PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
1. #10 UC San Diego, 144 (12)
2. #22 Sonoma State, 128
3. Cal Poly Pomona, 104 (1)
4. Cal State LA, 103
5. Chico State, 98
6. Stanislaus State, 97
7. Cal State San Bernardino, 95
T-8. Cal State San Marcos, 64
T-8. SF State, 64
10. Cal State Dominguez Hills, 37
11. Cal State East Bay, 30
12. Humboldt State, 27
13. Cal State Monterey Bay, 23