August 8, 2007

Defending Champion Gauchos Picked to Win Another Big West Title In Preseason Coaches Poll

Aug. 8, 2007

IRVINE, Calif. - For the sixth year in a row, the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team was chosen to win the Big West Championship when the results of the 2007 preseason coaches poll were announced on Wednesday. The Gauchos, who have won four of the last six Big West titles, led the way with six first place votes and a total of 48 points to secure the poll's top spot.

Cal State Northridge, the only other school to capture the conference title since 2000, received one first place vote and 43 points to finish second behind the Gauchos. Cal State Fullerton was picked to finish third after amassing 26 points, while UC Irvine came in fourth with 24 points and Cal Poly was a close fifth with 23. First-year member UC Davis and UC Riverside rounded out the poll finishing with 21 and 11 points, respectively.

After winning the program's first national championship in 2006, UCSB enters this season with a No. 3 preseason ranking in the College Soccer News' Top-30 national poll - the highest in program history. The Gauchos return seven starters and 15 letterwinners from the squad that won 11 of its final 12 matches a year ago. Headlining the returnees is three-time All-American and back-to-back Big West Defensive Player of the Year in senior Andy Iro. The Liverpool, England native was also named the 2006 College Cup Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the second time in the last three seasons as a junior. Fellow All-American Eric Avila also returns for his junior year with the Gauchos after amassing a team-high eight goals to go with five assists in 2006, while junior Nick Perera returns after a breakout sophomore campaign that culminated in the College Cup Most Outstanding Offensive Player award.

The Gauchos will also usher in a recruiting class that was ranked No. 13 by College Soccer News, as the Santa Barbara coaching staff has continued to find success in securing top-notch talent. Among the newcomers are University of San Diego transfer Ciaran O'Brien, the most sought after transfer player in the nation, and New Zealand U-20 National Team members Michael Boxall and Sam Jenkins, both of whom were named to the CSN list of 100 freshmen to keep an eye on in 2007.

With excellent depth at virtually every position and the invaluable experience from last season's title run, reigning NSCAA National Coach of the Year Tim Vom Steeg has UCSB geared up to play in December again this season.

"Once again, its great to have been selected as the program favored to win the Big West title by an excellent group of coaches in the conference," Vom Steeg said. "Having been selected first in the poll for the last six years speaks to how consistent we have been and we know we're going to get everyone's best game regardless of where we finish (in the poll)."

UCSB begins its 2007 campaign with an annual preseason scrimmage against cross-town rival Westmont on August 25th, looking to capture a seventh-straight Bryant & Sons Cup. The Gauchos then hit the road to open the season at Stanford August 31 before returning to Harder Stadium for their home opener with Gonzaga September 2.