No. 21 UCSB Opens Regular Season with University of Virginia Soccer Classic
Aug. 23, 2006
This Week's Schedule
University of Virginia Soccer Classic
Friday, August 25, 2006
No. 21 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. No. 9 Akron @ 11:00 a.m. (PT)
Sunday, August 27, 2006
No. 21 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. No. 4 Virginia @ 4:00 p.m.
UCSB Dazzles Against Westmont
With only one preseason match on the schedule, UCSB wasted no time in showing that the 2006 team has the potential to be very, very good. The Gauchos treated their fans to a 6-0 thrashing of cross-town rival Westmont Saturday night at Harder Stadium, capturing the 44th Annual Bryant & Sons Cup. Freshman forward Bongomin Otii shined in his Gaucho debut, scoring three goals and chipping in with an assist. Senior co-captain Bryan Byrne was also very impressive, finding the back of the net twice and adding a pair of assists. Sophomore forward Nick Perera put the finishing touches on the victory, scoring the Gauchos' sixth goal with 19 seconds to play. UCSB dominated the match from start to finish, out-shooting Westmont 38-2.
Head coach Tim Vom Steeg's teams have traditionally performed well in tournament play. Entering this weekend's University of Virginia Soccer Classic, the Gauchos own an impressive 19-4-1 record against tournament competition over the last five years at 7-4 in NCAA Tournament matches and 12-1-1 in regular season tourneys. Since 2001, UCSB has claimed six regular season tournaments, with the most recent being the 2004 UConn Huskie Classic and UNM/Crescent Financial Solutions Lobo Invitational. Last year the Gauchos went 0-1-1 in their season-opening adidas Classic, losing 2-0 to No. 20 Cal and tying sixth-ranked Virginia 0-0 in overtime.
Scouting the Zips
UCSB's first match of 2006 will be against the University of Akron. Friday's showdown will be the first-ever meeting between the Gauchos and Zips. In fact, it will be the first meeting in program history with any of the 12 current members of the Mid-American Conference. Last season the Gauchos faced Northwestern and Alabama A&M for the first time and won both contests by a combined scored of 9-2.
Akron enters this week's match up with a No. 9 ranking in the NSCAA preseason poll. The Zips finished 18-1-4 overall in 2005 and posted a perfect conference record at 5-0. They advanced to the Quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament where they lost to the No. 1 seed and eventual national champion Maryland 4-1 in penalty kicks.
The Zips return seven starters in 2006, including All-MAC First Teamers in goalkeeper Evan Bush, who posted 14 shutouts last season, and defender Ossie Michalsen. Second Team All-American Sinisa Ubiparipovic returns after recording 17 goals and 7 assists in 2005.
Scouting the Cavaliers
After Virginia made the trip out west for the UCSB adidas Classic at the start of last season, the Gauchos will now head east for the University of Virginia Soccer Classic to kick off the 2006 campaign. This year's match up marks the third-ever meeting between the two schools. In 2005, the Gauchos battled the Cavaliers to a 0-0 overtime tie. The first time the two programs met UCSB's roster featured a freshman by the name of Tim Vom Steeg. UCSB lost the match 2-0.
Virginia enters the season ranked No. 4 in the NSCAA preseason poll, up two spots from the No. 6 ranking they had at last year's meeting. In 2005, the Cavaliers finished second in the ACC with a 12-5-3 overall record and lost to North Carolina 2-0 in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Cavaliers welcome back 10 starters from last year's squad, including NSCAA All-Region selections forward Adam Cristman, who tallied seven goals and six assists last season, and goalkeeper Ryan Burke. Also back in 2005 is First Team All-ACC and NSCAA Freshman All-American Yannick Reyering who led the team with 14 goals.
As far as the rankings game is concerned, UCSB is picking up right where it left off at the close of the 2005 season. After losing to Big West rival Cal State Northridge 3-2 in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament, the Gauchos claimed a No. 23 final ranking from the NSCAA. Santa Barbara enters regular season play in 2006 with a national ranking of No. 21 in both the College Soccer News and Soccer America preseason polls, and earned a No. 22 nod from the NSCAA. Last year, the Gauchos secured a school record No. 4 preseason national ranking from the NSCAA following their 2004 run to the national championship game.
A League of Their Own
In addition to fairing well in tournaments during the early part of the season, UCSB has also had a tremendous showing against non-conference foes recently. Over the course of the previous five seasons, the Gauchos have fallen only six times to non-league opponents. They lost three times to Loyola Marymount in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and fell to Indiana in 2002 and Cal and UCLA last season. Since 2001, Santa Barbara has posted a 29-6-3 overall record in non-Big West competition.
Look Who's Back
Last season the Gauchos were faced with the difficult task of rebounding after the departure of arguably the best senior class in program history. In 2006 UCSB returns 15 players from last year's squad that ranked 20th in the nation in scoring at 2.05 goals per game, including six starters. On the back line Santa Barbara brings back reigning Big West Defensive Player of the Year Andy Iro and senior Jeff Murphy, who started a career high 16 games in 2005. Returning to the Gaucho midfield are Freshman All-American and 2005 Big West Freshman of the Year Eric Avila and First Team All-Big West honoree Tyler Rosenlund. Third Team All-Far Region selection and team co-captain Bryan Byrne will be back manning the right side after receiving a fifth year of eligibility. All-Big West Second Teamer Kyle Reynish will be back minding the net in his second season as the Gauchos full-time starter after playing every one of a possible 1969:19 minutes in 2005.
While the Gauchos do return six starters from the 2005 team, none of those players play up front. With the loss of two of the UCSB's top three goal scorers from a year ago in Ivan Becerra and Jonathan Davis, the Gauchos will have to rely on some new talent at the forward spot this season. A total of seven players will compete for time up top, including junior Andrew Proctor, the only returning Gaucho that started at forward last year. Proctor got the nod in Santa Barbara's final four matches and recorded assists in both tournament games. The only other returning player to see time up front is sophomore Nick Perera, who made eight appearances in his first year with the Gauchos. Returning to the lineup after redshirting to rehabilitate injuries in 2005 are junior Tino Nuñez and freshman Paul Kierstead. Rounding out the list of UCSB's forwards are newcomers Tony Chinakwe, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, and freshmen Bongomin Otii and Guillermo Jalomo.
Ministry of Defense
If Saturday's preseason exhibition match against Westmont was any indication, then defense will be a strong point for UCSB yet again in 2006. After the Gauchos' backline recorded an opponent goals per game average of .90 and nine shutouts in 2005, UCSB's defense should be as good or even better this season. Third Team NSCAA All-American and MAC Hermann Candidate Andy Iro will be back anchoring the backline in the middle. Lining up alongside him on the left flank will be senior Jeff Murphy and junior Greg Curry, who returns from the 2004 national finalist squad, will be on the right. Those three players started against the Warriors and looked tremendous, holding the visitors to just two shots in the match.
Depth Between the Posts
One thing UCSB did not have in 2005 was a solid backup for goalkeeper Kyle Reynish. Although the Valencia, Calif. native was absolutely brilliant for the Gauchos as a junior--recording a league-best nine complete game shutouts and a 0.87 goals against average--there were times when he wasn't at full strength and could have used a blow. This year Reynish will have help and will not be forced to play every minute in goal. Two of UCSB's new recruits are very capable netminders. Bryant Rueckner (Rancho Cucamonga/Edison Academics Center) joins the Gauchos after spending two years in the U.S. National Residency Program. He was the Under-17 Men's National Team's first choice keeper, starting 27 matches. Also on board is Jason Badger (Martinez, Calif./Alhambra HS), who was the highest rated goalie at last year's Region IV ODP camp. Along with the incumbent keeper in Reynish, Rueckner and Badger should give UCSB one of the best goalkeeping trios in the country.
Wave of the Future
One area head coach Tim Vom Steeg's program is still reaping the benefits following the Gauchos' magical run to the national championship match in 2004 is recruiting. UCSB enters the 2006 season not only with 10 returning guys expected to start, but also boasting one of the best recruiting classes the program has ever seen. In fact, the 13 players that will wear the blue and gold for the first time this year comprise a recruiting class that was ranked 22nd by College Soccer News. Freshman forward Bongomin Otii, who was an Colorado All-State performer and member of the state's ODP squad, started at forward in the Gauchos exhibition match up with Westmont and tallied three goals and two assists. Tony Chinakwe, a transfer from Santa Barbara City College, also saw quite a bit of time up front in the match and recorded three shots, two on frame. In all, eight new players saw action Saturday against the Warriors.
Iro Named to Hermann Award Watch List
Junior defender Andy Iro, the first two-time All American in program history, added another impressive distinction to his resume last week when he was named to the 2006 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Watch List. Iro became the second player to ever make the 25-man list at UCSB after teammate Tyler Rosenlund received the honor in 2005 as a sophomore. The Liverpool, England native was one of nine juniors to make the prestigious list that will eventually determine the NCAA Division I Player of the Year. The list of 25 will be reduced to 15 semifinalists near the end of the regular season, and three finalists prior to the start of the College Cup. Iro was also selected to the College Soccer News and Soccer America Preseason All-American teams after earning CSN second team honors prior to the start of last season.
Hungry For More
Gaucho soccer enthusiasts will be relieved to know that the right wing is in good hands thanks to senior co-captain Bryan Byrne returning for a fifth year of eligibility. Listed as a senior on last year's roster, international transfer rules allowed Byrne to return to UCSB once he finished his degree prior to the start of the 2006 season. The Castledermot, Ireland native was the only player in the Big West Conference to tally at least six goals and six assists in 2005, finishing second on the team in both categories. Byrne, who earned All-Big West Second Team honors for his performance a season ago, looked very impressive on Saturday against Westmont, scoring twice and chipping in with a pair of assists.
Nuñez and Curry: The Return
2006 marks the return of two key players for the Gauchos after missing the entire season a year ago. Juniors Tino Nuñez and Greg Curry were both in the starting lineup against Westmont and will most likely start this weekend against Akron and the University of Virginia. Nuñez redshirted his second season at UCSB to rehabilitate an injury. The forward appeared in 23 matches for Santa Barbara in 2004, scoring two goals and recording six assists. Curry also returns after redshirting the 2005 campaign. The defender played in 19 contests two years ago and was a major part of a Gaucho defense that posted a nation's best 15 shutouts.