After not making the NCAA tournament last season, the Tritons came into this season with a goal to show they were good enough to make the postseason. To add fuel to the fire, they were picked to finish fifth in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) preseason poll.
“We definitely used that as ammunition throughout the year,” UC-San Diego head coach Patti Gerckens said regarding the Tritons’ preseason ranking. “Just saying, if that’s what they thought of us, we have something to prove. And, you know, we did it on the field.”
The UC-San Diego team knew they were much more talented than what they were being portrayed as, and they even went as far as printing out the preseason poll and posting it in the locker room for added motivation.
Then they hit the field, with a chip on their shoulder, and proved themselves to be not only a powerhouse in the CCAA, but also a national force.
“All year we’ve set goals for ourselves, especially when those preseason polls game out,” said Sarah Woofter, UC-San Diego senior third baseman. “We knew we were better than what everyone thought we were going to be. And we took it baby steps, little steps at a time. We had a goal of winning the CCAA’s, we did that for the first time ever. …
“We had the goal to host super regional’s and we achieved that and our goal was to get here to nationals and the championship series and to win it, and its unbelievable that all that hard work was worth it and we won it.”
Not only was it the program’s first national championship, but it was UC-San Diego’s 30th title overall and third since its move to NCAA Division II.
“I’m just so proud to be a part of UCSD,” Gerckens said. “We’ve talked about this before. We have such great student-athletes, great coaches, great administrators; I’m just so proud to be part of UCSD and to be in that group.”
And for the seniors, there was no better way to go out. Not many student-athletes can go out saying they won the last game of their season, much less a national championship, but the six Triton seniors have that claim to fame.
“We have always said we wanted to win our last game,” said Kris Lesovsky, senior centerfielder. “And this year we did it. We were pumped from the very beginning. I have never felt that much energy in the dugout.”
Senior second baseman Jennifer De Fazio added, “It’s just amazing it hasn’t even sunk in yet that we accomplished it. But we worked hard for four years and to see it end like this. It couldn’t end any better way.”
Another factor that infused UC-San Diego this season was the addition of 10 talented, eager freshmen to the roster. With the young vibrance of 10 freshman, the returning players were forced to step it up a notch and ultimately taking the entire team to a new level.
“Once they realized the talent that came in in the recruiting class and including their own talent they saw what could be done this year,” Gerckens said “I didn’t have to do a lot of motivating. They were motivated enough to be ready to win a national championship.”
Now that the Tritons have left their mark on the national landscape as the NCAA Division II Softball National Champions, 12 returners will have the opportunity to use this experience to their advantage.
However, next season they will have to find a new source of motivation. Most likely, they won’t be printing off their No. 5 conference preseason rankings with something to prove. They have proven much more than that.
• UC-San Diego’s Camille Gaito threw every pitch of the NCAA tournament for the Tritons.
• The Tritons notched the program’s first national title, and UC-San Diego athletics’ 30th championship. This season also marked the program’s first CCAA regular season title.
• Alabama-Huntsville tied its season-high for runs allowed in its 10-3 loss on Monday in the national championship.
• The 10-run hole was the largest that Alabama-Huntsville had seen this season.
• Senior pitcher Alex Lewis of Alabama-Huntsville, the nation’s top closer, finished her career with 15 saves. She holds the NCAA record for saves in a season and in her career.