Local Standout Ema Boateng Signs NLI, Creighton Transfer Dion Acoff to Join UCSB

Ema Boateng (Photo courtesy PresidioSports.com)
Ema Boateng (Photo courtesy PresidioSports.com)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The future looks bright for the UCSB men's soccer team following head coach Tim Vom Steeg's announcement of the latest additions to the 2012 roster on Wednesday.

Cate School star midfielder Ema Boateng and goalkeeper Nick Savino (Moorestown, NJ/Moorestown HS) have both signed National Letters of Intent with the Gauchos. Meanwhile, Vom Steeg will also add transfers Dion Acoff from Creighton, Achille Campion from Belhaven University, Javier Castro from Mt. San Antonio College, and Brandon Brockway from Oregon State, to the fall 2012 roster.

With the combination of players graduating, being drafted by Major League Soccer clubs and leaving to play professionally abroad, UCSB lost the scorers of 39 of its 51 goals during the 2011 campaign. Filling in the holes on the offensive end of the ball was a top priority for Vom Steeg and his staff with this year's incoming class.

Boateng hails from Ghana and follows in the footsteps of Michael Tetteh, Waid Ibrahim and Fifi Baiden, who made their way to the states through the Right to Dream Academy.

The midfielder has helped Cate School to a 30-1-1 record during the past two seasons, including a perfect 22-0-0 mark last season. Boateng was named the CIF Division 7 Player of the Year after tallying 26 goals and 18 assists in the Rams' run to the championship. He was ranked No. 9 on College Soccer News' list of top recruits, which was released last week.

"Ema is very familiar to most soccer fans in town," Vom Steeg said. "He is a dynamic player who has an exceptional left foot. We see him playing more on the left hand side, though we also look at him in the middle; he can beat players off the dribble, he can score goals.

"Ema will go a long way towards to replacing a couple spots that we lose, one being (James) Kiffe on the left side and he could also potentially help to replace what (Luis) Silva did for us."

Savino is a two-sport star at Moorestown High School, competing as a pitcher and first baseman on the Quakers' baseball team in addition to playing as the soccer team's starting goalkeeper. His senior season in soccer, he garnered All-State, All-South Jersey All-Star and All-Burlington County honors. Savino is also a two-time All-Liberty Division First Team honoree.

The goalkeeper has played for the New Jersey Olympic Development Program, which he helped lead to the 2011 Region I Championship. He also competed with 3 Lions Soccer Academy and serves as the team captain.

"With André (Grandt) being a senior and Austin (Mansker) coming off of his injury, we absolutely need another goalkeeper in our program that we feel can push the other goalies," Vom Steeg said. "Even though Nick is young, because he is very aggressive and athletic, we feel that he is someone that will fight to get himself on the field and somebody that we can work with going forward."

Acoff, who just finished his junior season at Creighton, comes to Santa Barbara to close out his collegiate career. This past year, the forward helped the Bluejays to a College Cup appearance and a 21-2-1 overall record.

Acoff is a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference honoree and was the league's Freshman of the Year in 2009. He garnered NSCAA All-Midwest Region Second Team honors as a sophomore. The Upland, Calif. native has played in 58 Division I contests and has posted 16 assists, five goals and 26 total points during his three seasons at Creighton.

"He's a dynamic, explosive player with great pace and the ability to beat you," Vom Steeg said. "Against us (during the 2011 NCAA Third Round), I thought he was the best player on the field and I also thought he was very good at the Final Four.

"We will look to use him vary similarly to Sam Garza. We don't have to do a whole lot different; he will run out of midfield the same way and will be a third forward. He gives us the pace that Sam gave us, and the ability to get around the defense. He's a very good pick up for us in terms of what we just lost."

Campion will transfer to UCSB for his junior season and becomes the first French player in program history, hailing from Stella, France. The target striker brings size to the Gaucho offense, standing at 6-2 and 200 pounds. During his previous two seasons at Belhaven University – an NAIA school in Jackson, Mississippi – he tallied 47 points (21 goals, five assists).

This past year, he led the Blazers to a 16-5 record after scoring 17 goals and added an assist for 35 points. He led the team in shots (61) and shots on-goal (33).

"He gives us that player up top, which we tried to make David (Opoku) with moderate success," Vom Steeg said. "Achille is a player who is very comfortable with his back to the goal as a forward who engages defenders.

"We were looking for that kind of player to replace David – someone with proven goal scoring ability, but equally as important was somebody who could allow our other players to get into the attack. He is going to score a lot of goals."

Another addition to the Gaucho offense is Castro, a forward, that helped lead Mt. San Antonio College to consecutive South Coast Conference Championships, its third California Community College State Championship in 2011, a final 2011 NSCAA ranking of No. 1, and a 38-game undefeated streak.  

During his two seasons with the Mounties, Castro tallied a total of 67 points (23 goals, 21 assists). He led the team in points (40), goals (14) and assists (12) as a freshman in 2010. Castro is a two-time All-South Coast Conference First Team pick and twice earned All-Far West Region honors, garnering First Team accolades in 2011.

"We are looking for experienced, established goal-scorers that can contribute immediately," Vom Steeg said. "Javier is a very good forward who scores in a variety of different ways. He's coming from a great junior college program where he has done very well the past two years."

Brockway, a defender, redshirted this past season at Oregon State and will come to UCSB with four years of eligibility. The Tacoma, Wash. native was an All-League and All-Area team pick at Todd Beamer High School. Brockway played club for Sounders Academy and WPFC Academy teams.

"With the departure of Tim Pontius to the Seattle Sounders, we are excited to have Brandon's size, athleticism and passing ability to compliment our back line," Vom Steeg said.

The Gauchos have also added two players to the roster this winter quarter: midfielder Cesar Castillo from Cerritos College and defender Dylan Murphy, who hails from Australia and played for New South Wales Institute of Sport.

Castillo posted 19 goals and 15 assists during his two seasons with Cerritos College and was an All-South West Conference First Team picks for the Falcons. He prepped at Eagle Valley High School in Colorado and was a two-time All-State First Team pick.

Boateng, Savino, Castro and Brockway will join the Gauchos this fall, while Campion and Acoff will join the team during the spring quarter.

"We went into this past season thinking we had to replace Peter McGlynn (who used a medical redshirt season) at right back and Machael David (who will be a fifth year senior) at defensive midfield. Now they are coming back, so it took the pressure off of recruiting a big class for 2012. Our focus changed to finding attacking players and focusing on the 2013 class."

In addition to the return of McGlynn and David, UCSB will benefit from an experienced midfield in 2012. Nic Ryan and Josue Madueno – who was a 2011 All-Big West Honorable Mention – return for their senior seasons along with junior Fifi Baiden.

More 2012 roster additions are on the horizon, as Vom Steeg is still looking to bolster his back line with the addition of one or two more defenders.