Aug. 9, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - For the fifth year in a row, UC Santa Barbara was chosen to win the Big West Conference crown in the 2006 men's soccer preseason coaches poll, it was announced today. The Gauchos, who have won three conference titles in the last five years, led the way with four first place votes and a total of 33 points to secure the poll's top spot.
Cal State Northridge, the defending Big West champions and the only other school to capture the conference title in the last five years, received one first place vote and 29 points to finish second behind the Gauchos. Upstart UC Irvine was picked to finish third after amassing 27 points and the final first place nod. UC Riverside came in fourth with a 14 total points, while Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly rounded out the poll finishing with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
UCSB, which enters the 2006 season with a No. 21 preseason ranking in College Soccer News' national poll, returns seven starters from last year's squad that finished 7-1-2 in conference play and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Among the returnees are two-time All-American and reigning Big West Defensive player of the year Andy Iro, Freshman All-American and 2005 Big West Freshman of the Year Eric Avila, and All-Big West performers Bryan Bryne, Kyle Reynish and Tyler Rosenlund.
With a total of 15 letterwinners back this year and one of the best recruiting classes the program has ever seen (ranked No. 22 by College Soccer News), the Gauchos have the right pieces to win the Big West championship and make another run at the College Cup.
"Preseason polls are a reflection of how your school has performed in the past and of your incoming recruiting class," said head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "We have had success recently and have some extremely talented kids coming in this year, so the fact that our program was recognized by the coaches as the favorite to win the conference tells us we're doing things right."
Santa Barbara will have its first chance to avenge last season's NCAA Tournament loss to Cal State Northridge when the two teams meet September 27 at 2:30 p.m. in Northridge. The Gauchos and Matadors will square off again October 25 in Harder Stadium in a match that will be broadcast nationally by CSTV.
UCSB opens the 2006 campaign when they travel to Charlottesville, Virginia to face Akron and the host Cavaliers in the University of Virginia Soccer Classic August 25-27. The Gauchos began preparation for opening weekend with their first official practice this morning.