AUGUSTA, Ga. - The fifth-ranked UC San Diego women's soccer team is in Augusta, Ga., awaiting its national semifinal match-up with No. 3 Grand Valley State on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 2 p.m. PT.
Some news and notes after a lengthy travel day and UCSD's first training session in Georgia.
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The Tritons, again with 22 student-athletes and six coaches and staff, got together at North Campus at 8:50 a.m. on Monday morning, Nov. 26. Nearly 12 hours later as midnight approached in the Eastern time zone, they had checked into the Holiday Inn in Augusta, headquarters for all four women's teams competing in the NCAA Semifinals this week.
In between, UCSD flew four and a half hours to Charlotte, N.C., and following a one-hour layover, connected on to Savannah, Ga., for another hour. Still not at the final destination, the Tritons drove through largely dark and empty Georgia countryside for about two more hours north up the Georgia-South Carolina border to Augusta.
After holding their first training session here at a local park on Tuesday afternoon, the Tritons enjoyed lunch at a favorite spot and rested in their rooms. The evening featured a social activity put on by our hosts this week, the Peach Belt Conference, as the student-athletes from all four men's and four women's championship participants gathered at Adventure Crossing nearby for laser tag, go-kart racing, miniature golf, arcade games and food.
Wednesday will see UCSD go through its first and only official training session at the actual event facility, Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga., ahead of Thursday's semifinal. Brian McManus will have one hour and 15 minutes with his squad to finalize preparations for a familiar foe in Michigan's Grand Valley State. The championship banquet awaits at night.
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NCAA Insider with Casey Parisi
Q-How was your Thanksgiving?
CP-It was good. My family was able to come down (from Northern California). It was comforting to see them. Having a short little break between soccer practices was really nice.
Q-Walk us through how you wound up going from Santa Rosa all the way to New Jersey Institute of Technology, and then back across coasts to UCSD.
CP-Honestly, New Jersey offered me a good deal and it was Division I soccer, so I was thinking it was going to be a good experience, but I ended up missing home and my family too much. I decided to move back to my home state, and Brian (McManus) was nice enough to let me come on the team, and so I'm really thankful that I'm here.
I talked to Brian my senior year of high school, and things just didn't work out timing-wise. It was kind of just bad luck, so I went to New Jersey, but then when I wanted to come back home, I talked to Brian again, and he helped me figure out what I needed to do to get into school.
(NJIT) didn't turn out the way I'd liked. It was a nice wake-up call, knowing that it's not always the best to go to a higher division, because the experience I'm having here is such a great one. There is nothing that could replace this experience at UCSD.
Q-How have you enjoyed your time in La Jolla so far?
CP-It's such a close team. We do everything together. It's not exactly what I'd had in the past, so it‘s a really nice feeling. Just the camaraderie we have. Everyone cares for each other. Everyone's there for each other. It's something that I couldn't have imagined having at this point in my life. It's a great experience.
Q-How much pressure did you feel, if any, taking that sixth penalty kick against Colorado Mines with the season on the line?
CP-I started hearing the crowd from Mines chanting. I took my time walking up to the (penalty spot) so I could focus my head. We take (penalty kicks in practice). I know what side I'm going to. I know that I can beat the goalie. When I was walking up, I just made sure that my mind was right. I focused not on the crowd, but on the penalty kick itself, and I knew that it was a must. I had to make it, and knowing that I needed to do that for the team, was enough to get me through it.
Q-What are your expectations for this week in Georgia?
CP-I'm excited. It's such a unique experience that you get. I never imagined going to the final four before, so I'm looking forward to experiencing it with my team, and just being in an atmosphere that's so hyped up about soccer. It's going to be amazing.
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Ellen Wilson celebrated a birthday on the Tritons' travel day to Georgia on Monday. When she and fellow senior tri-captain Hayley Johnson line up against Grand Valley State this Thursday, with Ellen at center back and Hayley to her left as it's been since day one, it will mark a 90th consecutive start for each player for their illustrious Triton careers. UCSD has played 89 games since the 2009 season opener. Remarkably, Ellen and Hayley have started all 89 of them. As the conference's Most Valuable Defensive Player, Ellen has played every minute of every match during her final season of college soccer. Meanwhile, look for a feature story on Hayley in her hometown newspaper, Santa Rosa's Press Democrat, on Thursday.
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Having arrived in Georgia late Monday to mild, friendly conditions, the Tritons awoke Tuesday to rain, said to be the first in the area in three weeks. It stayed dry enough for UCSD's training and the evening outing. The outlook for the weather here for the remainder of the week remains very positive, with temperatures expected to be in the mid-60s under sunny skies for the next three days.
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Augusta, where UCSD is staying this week, is perhaps most famous for being the home of Augusta National Golf Club. The private club hosts The Masters tournament in early April each year as the first of four majors in professional golf. The 2012 NCAA Division II Women's Soccer Championship will take place, however, in Evans, which is approximately another nine miles north of Augusta.
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With this being the final round of this tournament, the NCAA takes it from here in terms of broadcast rights. Meaning, all games in Georgia this week will have a live webcast produced by the NCAA at NCAA.com, in addition to live stats.
Just 180 more minutes of soccer away from another championship. Go Tritons!