John Leaney has seen a lot of changes in women's soccer since moving to San Diego three years ago from his native England. And Leaney, women's soccer coach at UC San Diego, likes what he has seen.
"Women's soccer is probably the most expanding sport (nationally) right now," he said. "Girls are starting to play at the earliest age they can."
Leaney has high hopes for his program. "I'll be surprised if we don't start dominating Division III," he said. "In two or three years, I expect us to be one of the strongest teams (in the nation)."
In three years, Leaney has brought the Tritons from a 3-12 record to 9-2-4 this season. UCSD is ranked No. 1 in the West Region and No. 7 in the nation among Division III teams.
The Tritons' biggest problem this season has been trying to find a competitive Division III team. They have found none in Southern California.
"We don't fear anybody in Division III," Leaney said.
The Tritons have outscored Division III opponents 46-1 in seven matches. They have 11 shutouts in their 15 matches overall. The closest match was a scoreless tie with Santa Cruz in the All-Cal tournament when UCSD played without three starters.
UCSD's only losses have come to Division I teams--UC Santa Barbara, 2-1, and Cal State Long Beach, 1-0.
Recently, the Tritons have been without senior Adriane Clark, the team's two-time Most Valuable Player. Clark, who has seven goals in seven matches, has a pulled hamstring. Junior Lynn Bailey leads the team in scoring with nine goals, and eight players have each scored four goals or more.
So, Leaney has had to rely on his defense until Clark can return, probably later this month.
"Our strength is we can defend anybody," Leaney said. "We've had an exceptional defensive record."
Goalie Susan Krammer has allowed just four goals all season, but the sophomore rarely gets to touch the ball. Leaney says Krammer generally gets just one or two saves a game because the defense rarely lets the ball get near the goal.
"I think we can surprise people this year because nobody knows of us," Leaney said.
This is the first time a national championship will be held in Division III. Division I, II and III teams were grouped together in past years. Division I and II teams will again play for a one title.
Monique Javer of San Diego State will likely be the country's No. 1 women's collegiate tennis player when preseason rankings come out later this year. Javer, a sophomore from Hillsborough, Calif., recently won the International Tennis Coaches Assn.-U.S. Air All-American Championships in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The tournament winner traditionally is ranked No. 1 in the season's first ratings.
Javer, ranked No. 17 collegiately last year and No. 170 in the world entering the tournament, was seeded sixth. She defeated Katrina Adam of Northwestern University, 6-4, 6-2, in the final.
Nancy Dome of United States International University was named the West Coast Athletic Conference player of the week after leading the Gulls to victories over Cal State Fullerton and Nevada Reno.
Dome, a junior outside hitter, recorded 57 kills to lead USIU (2-0, 11-11), which won last week's matches despite having only six players able to play because of injuries.
The UC San Diego men's basketball team got a boost when John Saintignon transferred from UC Santa Cruz for his senior season. Saintignon does not have to redshirt because he is transferring from one NCAA Division III school to another.
Saintignon, a 6-0 guard, led the nation in scoring last season with 31 points per game. The addition of Saintignon gives the Tritons, who were 14-12 last year, three solid guards with the return of the team's top scorers, seniors Brian Backens (6-2, 18-point average) and Greg Kamansky (6-0, 19-point average).