May 16, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The reigning NCAA National Champion UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team has added two important pieces to its recruiting class for 2007 with the signing New Zealand standouts Michael Boxall and Sam Jenkins to national letters of intent, head coach Tim Vom Steeg announced Wednesday. Boxall and Jenkins are current starters on the New Zealand Under-20 Youth National Team and come to UCSB having competed at the highest levels of international soccer.
Boxall, a native of Auckland, and Jenkins, a Napier City native, will represent New Zealand in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup this summer in Canada. New Zealand, a member of the Group C draw along with Portugal, Gambia, and Mexico, will take on Portugal and star midfielder Bruno Gama in its first game July 2 in Toronto.
The pair of Kiwis will have the opportunity to square off with some of the world's top players during the 2007 World Cup, which showcases the likes of Argentina's Lionel Messi, who currently plays professionally for Barcelona in the Champions League, and Spain's Cesc Fabregas, a member of Arsenal. The United States' U-20 squad features Freddy Adu of Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake and Josmer Altidore of the New York Red Bulls.
"We are very excited to add two players that have performed at the top level on an international stage and will continue to do so this summer," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "Michael and Sam will have an immediate impact on our team and in the college game in general."
Boxall, a gifted center back that can also play in the midfield, has already earned three international caps with the U-20s and two with New Zealand's `A' squad. In his debut with the Youth All Whites, he helped shut down the Australian offense in a 1-0 win. A member of Auckland City FC, Boxall helped guide the team to a third place finish in the NZ Football Championship with a record of 12-6-3 and was a standout on one of the league's best defenses that allowed just 30 goals during the season. He was named the Auckland City Young Player of the Year for his performance.
Jenkins is touted as a quick player out wide as well as a talented striker. He has earned two international caps and scored three goals in his first two games with the U-20s, including the game-winner in the 1-0 win against Australia in his debut. Also a member of New Zealand's `A' squad, Jenkins competes for Hawke's Bay United at the club level and was one of the squad's top goal scorers during the 2006-07 NZ Football Championship, New Zealand's top domestic league.
"These are two highly respected young players with tremendous potential," Stuart Jacobs, New Zealand's U-20 National Team coach, said. "They have a lot to offer any program and if they continue to develop, I believe both will make a career out of the sport."
Boxall and Jenkins signed with the Gauchos following in the footsteps of former defender Tony Lochhead and forward Neil Jones, who both competed for New Zealand at the national level prior to their arrival in Santa Barbara. Lochhead, who is currently playing with the All Whites, was an All-American defender and four-time All-Big West selection at UCSB, earning All-College Cup distinction in 2004. Jones returned to Santa Barbara as an assistant coach before the start of the 2006 season after amassing 28 goals and 16 assists as a four-year starter with the Gauchos.
"Tony and Neil were an integral part of this program's rise onto the national scene, culminating with a national championship appearance in 2004," Vom Steeg said. "They were tremendous for us for four years and left a lasting impact here. We expect the same type of things from Boxall and Jenkins."
Together, the duo adds to a recruiting class that also features goalkeeper Kristopher Minton, an All-CIF performer and standout from the nationally ranked Irvine Strikers Soccer Club, and midfielder Joseph Eubanks, a member of the Region IV Olympic Development squad. In 2007 the Gauchos will also have the services of freshman All-American Ciaran O'Brien, a talented transfer from the University of San Diego, and Chad Williams, a Jamaican National Team standout. The crop of newcomers joins a Santa Barbara squad that returns all but five players from last year's national championship team.