SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After being plagued by numerous injuries to its backline during the 2011 campaign, the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team enters this year boasting a healthy and deep defensive group.
A key returner to the Gaucho lineup will be fifth-year senior Peter McGlynn, who suffered a season-ending injury after tallying two assists in the 2011 season opener. The right back has played in 60 games for the Gauchos and was a 2010 All-Big West Second Team selection.
"When he is on his game, there is no better right back in the country," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said.
Also coming back after having his season derailed by a head injury is Mathew Glodack, who started 13 games for UCSB last year.
Rounding out the returning starters will be junior Peter Schmetz, who garnered 2011 All-Big West Honorable Mention accolades for the Gauchos after starting all 23 games and posting two goals. Vom Steeg described Schmetz as the team's, "most solid player" during the 2011 campaign.
As a reaction to the string of injuries suffered by last season's defense, Vom Steeg and his coaching staff sought out extra players during the offseason to provide further depth to the Gauchos' backline.
Daniel Welsh, a seasoned transfer from University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), was brought aboard to compliment Schmetz. The junior was a two-time All-America East selection for the Retrievers and helped his team to a conference title and NCAA Second Round appearance.
Oregon State transfer Brandon Brockway and Skyline College product Pierre Rappolt will also help bolster the defensive efforts along with returner Kevin Garcia-Lopez, who has spent the past two seasons with UCSB.
"We just know that in the back, we want to have enough there, so if we have another experience like last year, we have enough bodies and enough big kids," Vom Steeg said.
UCSB will also boast more depth in goal this year with three capable keepers vying for the starting position.
"The critical component to any successful season is that, at any position, you feel like there is competition," Vom Steeg said. "We want to be in a position where we feel good enough and deep enough in our roster that we can make changes and not drop off. The reality is that we were not in that situation last year in goal."
André Grandt returns for his senior campaign after starting every game and playing every minute for the Gauchos in 2011. The Wolfsburg, Germany native posted a .680 saves per game average and recorded seven shutouts.
Austin Mansker, who has been with the Gauchos for two seasons, but redshirted his freshman year and then was forced to redshirt again in 2011 after an ACL injury, will join Grandt. Rounding out the list of Gaucho goalkeepers is freshman Nick Savino, who hails from Moorestown, N.J.
"Hopefully we can get all three goalies playing well and make it a tough decision as to who starts," Vom Steeg said. "We would like to be settled in on one goalie, but nothing says that given the situation or who we are playing, we wont make a change."
With depth and a wealth of experience at every position, Vom Steeg is confident that the 2012 squad is the best that UCSB has assembled.
"Every year we say, 'this is the most talented group' and it's true," Vom Steeg said. "We feel like we will not be in a game this season where we will look across the field and say, 'we just don't match up.' If we don't like a match-up on the field, there is someone on my bench that we could bring in to change that match-up."
While talent is certainly key to any team's success, the Gauchos know that it takes more than talent to win championships.
"As has been the case over the last several years now, it is not about not having enough talent," Vom Steeg said. "It will absolutely come down to the willingness of the talent that is on the bench, on the field, in the locker room, and at practice to be willing to do all of the small things and to support the greater team effort. That is partly chemistry; some things you can't control.
"We are plugging in new players into key positions and with that will come some times during the season where we may not be on the same page and that's where leadership comes in," Vom Steeg said.
Leadership is something the Gauchos should have no shortage of as they will field one of their oldest teams in program history with 18 upperclassman on the roster, many of which have over 50 collegiate games under their belts.
"I feel like when you have that kind of experience, leadership and background, there wont be anyone on the field that doesn't feel like we are going to win every game," Vom Steeg said. "Our realistic expectation is that we can win every game that we play and we will take the approach that we are favored to win every game. As the favorite team, we need to do the things that ensure we win."
The UCSB men's soccer team will kick-off its 2012 campaign tonight, Saturday, Aug. 18 with an exhibition against Westmont at 7 p.m. at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.
To ensure that you don't miss a minute of the 2012 campaign, purchase your season tickets now. The popular Family Plan includes five tickets for just $178. This year, the plan will also serve as a Flex Plan with either two season passes and three GKids memberships or five tickets – it's your call! GKids remains the best value in town for kids with access to every regular season game in every sport while wearing your GKids t-shirt. Call (805) 893-UCSB or click here to purchase your season tickets.