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 as game time approaches against the Lakers.
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The UCSD players are in their hotel rooms in Augusta, at press time less than 14 hours from kickoff of its national semifinal. The Tritons trained for 75 minutes early Wednesday afternoon at the venue, Blanchard Woods Park in Evans. An expansive complex of multiple fields tucked in between trees all around, UCSD put the finishing touches on its preparations for GVSU on one of the practice fields.
After a brief stop at the hotel and a lunch outing, the Tritons went back to resting up in their rooms. The group left shortly after 6 p.m. for the NCAA Championship banquet, which was over by 8:30 p.m. Former University of South Carolina, Major League Soccer and U.S. Men's National Team standout Clint Mathis, a Georgia native, was the speaker following a catered meal for all eight teams in attendance. Watch the Triton tri-captains' official critique of the event here.
Mercyhurst of Erie, Pa., and Lynn of Boca Raton, Fla., contest the first men's semifinal at 8 a.m. PT Thursday, with first-time Canadian representative Simon Fraser, the champions of the West Region, taking on Michigan's Saginaw Valley State in the other men's semi at 11 a.m. After UCSD and GVSU take the field at 2 p.m. PT on the women's side, West Florida will cap the day against defending national champion Saint Rose of Albany, N.Y., at 5 p.m. PT.
The latest weather forecast for Evans Thursday calls for sun with a high of 63 degrees. Of course, it will be dark when the Tritons and Lakers kick off at 5 p.m. local time, but the weather will still be a very far cry from the high 20s with snow from the 2010 meeting. UCSD expects the result to be drastically different as well.
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Tale of the Tape: When Last We Met...
There are certainly other items to be compared besides the weather, from when UCSD and GVSU met for the 2010 national title in Louisville, Ky., resulting in a 4-0 Laker victory. UCSD was 19-2-3 and ranked 12th back then. The Tritons are 16-2-4 and ranked fifth now. GVSU was 21-1-2 and rated fifth. The Lakers are 20-1-3 and third at the moment. Both teams had four starters that day who are still with the team this season, with Danielle Dixon, Hayley Johnson, Jessica Wi and Ellen Wilson the foursome for the Tritons, and starting goalkeeper Chelsea Parise, Ashley Botts, Kayla Addison and Alyssa Mira for GVSU. Assistant coach Sarah McTigue also started for UCSD that day, while Gabi Hernandez and Rachel Leslie appeared off the bench.
The Tritons have lost just five of 42 matches since that title tilt, all by a single goal.
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NCAA Insider with Izzy Pozurama
Q-How do you feel about being at your first final four?
IP-It's really exciting. At the hotel, we see NCAA posters everywhere and we see the other teams in the hotel as well. We've already done activities, like going to Adventure Crossing with the other teams (Tuesday night). I already feel like it's an important event.
I do feel the pressure building up. Tomorrow's our game, and if we lose (our season is) done. We've gotten this close. We just need to win two more games and we have a national championship. I am feeling nerves, but I feel confident that we can play our game and win tomorrow to go to the final.
Q-Describe carrying your team through the month of October with eight goals.
IP-I didn't score for the first half of the season. It kind of did bug me, but once I scored my first goal, I kind of just set off from there. I felt all the pressure go off my shoulders, and it became easier to score those few games. I haven't scored since the (postseason) began, and I don't feel that it bugs me now. I have been contributing in other ways. The past two games, against Western Washington and Mines, I had a few opportunities that I should have put away, and it would have made the game a lot easier. Now that we're in the final four, I'm only going to get a few chances to score. Whenever we get an opportunity, it's pretty necessary to put that goal away.
Q-After a quiet CCAA Championship, how gratifying was it to set up the goal (OT vs. WWU) that moved your team into the NCAA Quarterfinals?
IP-That was the game where I missed three (earlier) opportunities and it really got to my head, but Jonesy (assistant coach Kristin Jones) gave me a little pep talk before overtime. I didn't expect to go in for the overtime. I came off at the end of (regulation). (Kristin) told me she was putting me back in, because she felt confident that I could keep my composure and do something great for the team. It was (less than one minute) in. I got the ball. It was at the top of the 18, so I could have shot it, but I saw Jess Wi run down the line so I played it to her. She played it to Gabi (Hernandez) and Gabi scored.
Q-Do you starting underclassmen feel any pressure to win this title for your exceptional senior class?
IP-Yeah, it's a lot of seniors (10), and for them, it's their last opportunity to win a championship. Who knows? Next year, maybe I might not be able to, either. Now that we're here, we made it this far, so it's really important to achieve our goal and win a national championship. It's been a while since our school has gotten one, and we want to get that eighth star on our patch.
Q-How do you think things will go on Thursday against GVSU?
IP-We just have to take advantage of our opportunities. If we play our own game, we don't need to worry about Grand Valley. We don't really know much about them. We just need to focus on ourselves and make sure that we come out strong and playing our own game.
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The 2012 postseason honors continue to roll in, with the Tritons habitually well-represented on both the athletic and academic fronts. Cassie Callahan, Hayley Johnson and Ellen Wilson earned the important distinction Wednesday of being named Academic All-Americans. Read more about it here.
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UCSD is deservedly gaining some publicity over these past couple of weeks. Most recently, the U-T San Diego profiled Coronado product Cassie Callahan (click here), while Hayley Johnson was the focus of her hometown newspaper, Santa Rosa's Press Democrat (click here), as both publications previewed Thursday's semifinal. The Sports Page, the U-T's 30-minute daily live online show, also spoke with Brian McManus, Britnee Chesney and Gabi Hernandez in profiling the great women's soccer tradition at UCSD (click here).
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A reminder that if you aren't already here with us in Georgia or on your way, to please support the Tritons from the home or office at 2 p.m. PT on Thursday. Kyle Binder will provide the commentary for the free NCAA.com webcast, with live stats also available.
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