By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma State’s reward for a stellar women’s soccer season is the west region’s top seed and opening the NCAA tournament at home.
Making the NCAA Division II tournament for the first time in 12 years, the Seawolves play Sunday against the winner of Cal Poly Pomona and Western Washington. Looming ahead could be conference nemesis UC San Diego, seeded second in the region.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said midfielder Gretel Amman, out of Montgomery High. “We want to go as far as we can. I think we have a good chance to go the whole way.”
Ranked seventh in the nation and best in the west, Sonoma State at 16-2-2 has the most wins since the Seawolves reached the NCAA Division II title game in 1998. Those playoffs were the last for Sonoma State to host a tournament contest.
The NCAA tournament features eight regions and 48 teams. The semifinals and championship games will be played Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga.
Sonoma State captured the California Collegiate Athletic Association North Division title this season. The Seawolves secured the west region top seed despite losing to UC San Diego on penalty kicks in the conference tournament championship on Sunday.
Boasting seven all-conference players, Sonoma State is a disciplined, physically fit team. A high scoring squad, averaging more than two goals a game, Sonoma State is yielding less than a score per contest.
Leading the scoring is conference newcomer of year Cara Curtin, from Santa Rosa Junior College and Maria Carrillo High. She was second in the conference in scoring. Sonoma State’s other first team all-conference player is Sara Studer, from Oceanside.
She is an anchor on the back line and also moves up top for scoring.
“There is a focus in this group toward winning. It’s such a joy to coach when the desire to win is already there,” said coach Emiria Salzmann Dunn.
With a bye into Sunday’s second round, Sonoma State has more time to rest and prepare. The Seawolves did not play Western Washington this season. Sonoma State handled Pomona by 5-0 and 4-2 scores, the latter in the conference tournament.
Leading the other half of the six team west region bracket is UC San Diego, ranked 13th in the nation. The Tritons host a pair of games this weekend.
Sonoma State has never beaten UC San Diego. This season the teams played to a scoreless tie and then Sunday’s contest decided by penalty kicks.
“I kind of hope we face them again. I think we can beat them,” Amman said. “We’ve just been getting better all along.”
Sonoma State University will host the NCAADivision II Women’s Soccer Championship West Sub-Regional this week:
2 p.m. — No. 4 Cal Poly Pomona (10-5-3) vs. No. 5 Western Washington (17-3-0)
1 p.m. — No. 1 Sonoma State (16-2-2) vs. winner of Friday’s match