Nov. 10, 2009
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara junior forward Kailyn Kugler was named Big West Offensive Player of the Year and was one of three Gauchos selected First Team All-Big West, the league announced Tuesday. Kugler is the sixth UCSB player to be named Big West Offensive Player of the Year in the last nine seasons.
A San Clemente, Calif., native, Kugler was joined on the first team by junior midfielder Jacqui Simon and junior forward Kylie McDonald. Junior defender Nicole Romanowski was named Second Team All-Big West, while sophomore defender Alexa Stringer and freshman midfielder Erin Ortega were recognized as honorable mention picks.
Kugler enters Thursday afternoon's NCAA Tournament match against BYU as UCSB's leading scorer with nine goals and five assists for 23 points. It marks the first time in her three-year career that she has been selected all-conference, let alone Offensive Player of the Year. Kugler's three-year total of 22 goals ranks 10th on the school's all-time list.
"Kailyn came to us as a recruited walk-on," said Gaucho head coach Paul Stumpf. "She had potential and when presented with the opportunity, she grabbed it and hasn't let go. Kailyn was actually an outside back in club, but she has such a great nose for the goal. She understands to put the ball where the goalkeeper is not."
Kugler is the sixth UCSB player to be selected the league's Offensive Player of the Year since 2001. Jennifer Borcich (2001, 2003, 2004), Genelle Ives (2008), and Krystal Sandza (2002) were also accorded the honor.
For Simon it was her second straight First Team All-Big West selection. She currently has four goals and five assists for 12 points, second on the team.
"Jacqui is just one of the best soccer players in the conference," Stumpf began. "She is our glue. She has such a high work rate, she talks and communicates, and she just makes the people around her better."
McDonald was a second team all-conference choice in 2008 and for the second year in a row, she leads UCSB in assists with seven.
"Kylie is one of the most dynamic players in the conference," Stumpf said. "She is great at changing her pace and turning the corner and she really has a knack for setting people up. This is very well deserved."
Romanowski was a key to UCSB in 2009. With the loss of several key defenders from their 2008 team, the Gauchos were left to fill several holes and Romanowski made the switch from the midfield, stepped into the breach and had an outstanding year.
"She really did take to the position," Stumpf said. "Nicole was a lot like Kailyn (Kugler) in that the opportunity presented itself and she seized it. I give her a lot of credit. Her willingness to make the change (from midfield to central defender) has a lot to do with our success."
Ortega and Stringer, a freshman and sophomore respectively, give Stumpf great optimism for the future. Ortega has two goals and an assist while Stringer, along with Romanowski, is one of just two UCSB players to start every match.
"Erin has a very bright future for us," he said. "As a freshman, she has essentially started from day-one on a team that is going to its second straight NCAA Tournament. Alexa got hurt right before conference last year and this year she has been a big part of the reason that we were able to turn things around."
Joining Kugler in earning major Big West awards were Cal Poly's Coral Hoover (Goalkeeper of the Year) and Julianne Grinstead (Defender of the Year), Pacific's Angelica Figueroa (Midfielder of the Year), and Cal Stae Northridge's Cynthia Jacobo (Freshman of the Year) and Keith West (Coach of the Year).
The Gauchos, who won the Big West Conference Tournament for the second straight year, will play BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon in a game that will kick-off at 4:30 at Stanford University. The UCSB-BYU game is available on Gametracker, KCSB 91.9 FM, KCSB.org, and a free video stream is available at gostanford.com.