For a PDF of the entire Big West Men's Soccer Preseason Poll and Preseason All-Conference Team, click here.
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team was tabbed to finish second in the Big West while sophomore Rodney Michael and junior Noah Billingsley were selected to the Preseason All-Conference Team, it was announced by the league office on Thursday afternoon.
With the North and South divisions now a thing of the past, the Gauchos received 55 total points and three first-place votes to rank second in the Coaches Poll, coming in behind reigning Big West Tournament champion Cal State Fullerton, who edged UCSB with 57 points and four first-place votes. CSUN, who claimed a share of the South Division title with the Titans last season, were picked third with 47 points, while the 2017 North Division champions, UC Davis, were slotted fourth with 40 points and received the lone remaining first-place vote. UC Irvine (30), Sacramento State (23), UC Riverside (21) and Cal Poly (15) round out the rest of the Coaches Poll in order.
Michael, the 2017 Big West Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Big West selection, burst onto the scene for UCSB in his debut campaign and figures to lead the offense once again in 2018. The 5-foot-8 forward tallied eight goals and four assists to pace the Gauchos last season, and the All-Far West Region recipient also debuted for the Sierra Leone U20 National Team this summer.
Joining Michael on the Preseason All-Conference Team is Billingsley, who earns the preseason honor for the second season in a row. The Wellington, New Zealand native scored two goals, both of which were game-winners, while adding two assists during his sophomore campaign for the Gauchos. Billingsley battled through injuries for much of the 2017 season, but is a key piece to the puzzle when healthy as shown by UCSB's 5-1-4 record in games he starts. On the other hand, the Gauchos went just 1-6-1 when he did not start or play. Billingsley also had a summer to remember as he made his New Zealand National Team debut in the Hero Intercontinental Cup against Kenya.
After fielding a very young but talented roster last fall, Santa Barbara has a promising outlook this season with 18 returners and 13 incoming student-athletes. Of the 18 returners, nine started 10 games or more in 2017 and will play key roles during the upcoming season. Incoming talent is headlined by transfers Carson Vom Steeg (Stanford) and Faouzi Taieb (St. Francis Brooklyn), who was recently named to the prestigious MAC Hermann Watch List.
UCSB hosts the 2018 College Cup at Harder Stadium in December and season tickets as well as College Cup packages are on sale now and can be found online here or by calling the UCSB Athletics Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB.
The Gauchos kick-off the season with its annual exhibition against Westmont on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 7:00 p.m. and will hold its "Meet the Team" event at 4:00 p.m. For more information please contact Mia Weber at 805-893-4785 or email Mia.Weber@athletics.ucsb.edu.