ST. GEORGE – The Dixie State men’s soccer team is going to the NCAA Division II championships for the first time in program history.
The players and coaches gathered on campus for the NCAA Tournament pairings show on Monday night. There was much cause for celebration when it was announced the TrailBlazers will travel to San Diego and will play their first game this Friday against Western Washington.
The winner of that game will face the subregional host, UC-San Diego. The Tritons were seeded second and received a first-round bye. The No. 1 seed was awarded to Simon Fraser despite its season-ending loss to Western Washington. SFU will play the winner of Cal Poly-Pomona and Sonoma State.
The Blazers have the longest winning streak of the teams in the West Region at 15. They moved up one spot in the regional rankings to third. DSU won the PacWest in a decisive manner, with no defeats and no ties. The Blazers finished the year with a 15-3 overall record and 13-0 in the PacWest.
Dixie State had a record of 2-12-1 just two years ago and was last place in the PacWest. The transformation started last year with a second-place finish. The Blazers improved even more this season to become the first PacWest team to finish unbeaten and untied.
“I was a freshman on that 2-12 team,” said Dixie State team captain and defenseman Bryan Baugh. “It is great to be part of this turnaround and to be on the first team to go to the playoffs.”
The CCAA (California Collegiate Athletic Association) is represented by three teams. In addition to UCSD, who won the CCAA, both Sonoma State and Cal-Poly Pomona are from the CCAA. The Great Northwestern Athletic Conference (GNAC) have two teams with season champion Simon Fraser and the conference tournament champion Western Washington.
When asked about his familiarity with DSU’s first-round opponent, the WWU Vikings, Dixie State head coach Nyle Ortiz was succinct, “Absolutely nothing. They are good and we have played them in the past (the teams last played in 2012). I know they have a good program. We will try to get some film this week.”
The two teams do have common opponents, Montana State-Billings and Northwest Nazarene. Dixie State lost to MSU-Billings and beat Northwest Nazarene, both on the road at the beginning of the season. Western Washington played both schools twice, winning at home and losing on the road against both.
Dixie State is the sole representative from the Pacific West Conference. California Baptist was seeded fifth in the previous poll, but dropped out after their season-ending loss against Dixie State. Western Washington replaced the Lancers in the final poll.
“That is too bad,” said Dixie State defenseman Bryan Baugh. “Cal Baptist is a good team and they had a good season.”
The times and dates for the first-round games have not been announced, though it is anticipated that the games will be held on Friday and Sunday with the exclusion of California Baptist.
“One game at a time,” said Baugh. “We are on a roll right now and we want to keep it going.”
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