SAN MARCOS — Cal State San Marcos’s women’s soccer team took home its first-ever California Collegiate Athletic Association championship title this week after a shutout victory over Cal Poly Pomona, propelling them to a spot in the national tournament.
The Cougars executed a 1-0 victory on Sunday against the Broncos, with an 18th-minute goal scored by midfielder Nani Kia’aina, who was named to the CCAA All-Tournament Team and selected as tournament MVP.
Head Coach Bobby Renneisen said the championship win is well deserved after a terrific season for the Cougars, who set a new program record with their 14-game unbeaten streak since Sept. 23.
“[It was] pure elation, just pure exuberance,” Renneisen said of the win. “I’ve been here for 18 years and this is right at the top for one of the best teams we’ve ever had, for sure.”
The Cougars will battle in the NCAA Western Regional Tournament, where they are seeded fifth out of six teams. They play their first match against fourth-seeded Concordia University Irvine at noon on Thursday at Point Loma Nazarene University.
The two teams last faced off in 2017 with a 2-0 San Marcos win.
If the Cougars are victorious against the Golden Eagles on Thursday, they will play top-seed Point Loma on Nov. 18, who they lost to earlier this season 2-0.
Senior defender Devyn Kelley, also a team captain, said the team has felt more like a family this year than before. This sense of unity is something she believes was crucial to the Cougars nabbing the CCAA tournament title.
“The thing that stands out for me this season is the team culture. That’s something that we’ve prided ourselves on and me and the other group of seniors have worked on, and that’s honestly what happened this season — yes, we had a lot of talent and a lot of success, but this year it’s more of a united family and culture than it’s ever been,” Kelley said.
Kelley said going into the national tournament is exciting and bittersweet — it’s her last season. However, this is a good season to go out on.
“It’s the first time that we’ve had this opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament, but I’m confident in our team; I’m confident in the heart, skill and work ethic. I know we have what it takes to go far in this tournament, if not all the way,” she said.
Along with their win, CSUSM players took five of the 11 spots on the CCAA All-Tournament Team — the Kia’aina above (Offensive MVP), Natalie Paulson (Defensive MVP), Natalia Huntington, Allison Marcure, and Claire Hernandez.
“It’s just a really special group, and we’ve been at it for quite some time. They’re really dedicated to each other … and they’re just really dedicated to being part of something bigger than themselves. They deserve all these types of awards and accolades that they’re getting,” Renneisen said.
CSUSM joined NCAA Division II in 2017 following its transition from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.