SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After successfully recruiting 11 standout players over the first two days of NLI signings last week, the incoming class for UC Santa Barbara soccer has been lauded as one of the best in the nation, including a No. 8 ranking by college soccer website Top Drawer Soccer.
Tops among Big West schools and third-best among West Coast programs, UCSB's Top Drawer ranking was joined by the following assessment: "UCSB picked up a late commitment with Ryo Fujii who joins the program on Thursday after the Gauchos announced a 10-player class on Wednesday. Fujii adds another piece to the midfield, which should be a strength for the Gauchos in 2014 and for years to come. "
College Soccer News claimed that the strong incoming class will help mitigate the loss of seniors Fifi Baiden, Goffin Boyoko, and Achille Campion, saying that the Gauchos' haul "looks to be among the best classes top to bottom in the country."
On National Signing Day last Wednesday, the team inked 10 players. Included among them were exciting forwards Adonis Amaya (LA Galaxy Academy) and Dalton Pando (SJ Earthquakes Academy), who were both ranked among the top-50 academy players nationwide. Other nationally ranked players included skilled attacking midfielder Axel Mendez and lockdown center back Jeff Quezada from the Galaxy Academy, and forward Denis Kalamar of the Seattle Sounders Academy.
Mendez in particular drew praise from Top Drawer, who said of him: "There's no getting around Mendez's ability as one of the smoothest operators in the nation...Watching Mendez play is not unlike watching a swift river flow past a bank of rocks. He's a smooth creative midfielder with rare technical ability, which should please a UCSB side that could use his abilities in the middle."
The Gauchos also brought in a pair of international standouts in Ludwig Ahl (AIK Stockholm) and Julian Busch (1860 Munich) who both played at the top level of amateur European soccer.
Those 10 were joined by Thursday signee Ryo Fujii, another nationally rated Galaxy Academy midfielder, who has the ability to slot in immediately as a holding midfielder.
This incoming class, combined with established young stars like reigning Big West Freshman of the Year Ismaila Jome, visionary midfielder Drew Murphy, poised keeper Josh McNeely, and sturdy center back Nick DePuy should ensure a bright future for the Gauchos for 2014 and beyond.
To read the full releases, click here for Top Drawer (premium subscription required) and here for College Soccer News. To relive the 2013 season with a video recap, click here to access the UCSBgauchos YouTube page.