Aug. 18, 2010
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The 2010 men's soccer season will be a special one in Santa Barbara. Our majestic seaside town will play host to the NCAA Men's College Cup in December and if that is not exciting enough, the buzz currently surrounding the Gauchos is that they very well could be in the mix for the national title.
"The goal is to make it to our College Cup; even if that wasn't our goal, that is the expectation (of others) for our team," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "I think it is a realistic goal, we have the talent and we have been preparing for it. We have done all the things we need to do to get the right players here. So, that's where we hope it ends up."
Just glancing at the 2010 roster, you can see what Vom Steeg means about having the talent. The Gauchos return nine starters from the 2009 squad that won the Big West regular season with a dominant 8-1-1 conference mark, advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament and posted an overall record of 17-5-2.
Heading into last season, Vom Steeg's major concern was his defense after watching his team give up 39 goals in 2008. The Gauchos entered 2009 with some huge question marks in the back, but those question marks quickly became the biggest exclamation points of the season.
Behind the leadership of goalkeeper Sam Hayden and defenders Martin Hedevag and Michael Boxall, UCSB posted a school-record 16 shutouts in 2009, allowing just 18 goals. The team's 0.75 goals per match average ranked fourth all-time in UCSB history.
"We established last year that we could be a very good defensive team," Vom Steeg said. "Sixteen shutouts, it's kind of hard to even improve on that, but that is something we want to build upon from last year."
After a tremendous first season with the Gauchos, goalkeeper Hayden returns for his senior year. The 2009 Big West Goalkeeper of the Year set a school and Big West record with his 16 shutouts and he also set a school record with 595:16 consecutive shutout minutes.
Waiting in the wings behind Hayden are two freshmen goalkeepers - Austin Mansker (San Jose, Calif./Valley Christian HS) and Eric Reyes (Pembroke Pines, Fla./University School at NSU) - who both show promise of a bright future between the pipes for UCSB.
The Gauchos' depth is not just limited to the goal as UCSB returns several talented defenders to cover the back line. Senior Boxall enters the season with the most experience. The Auckland, New Zealand native started every game last year, playing a school-record 2,185 minutes. He capped the season with First Team All-Big West accolades and will be looking to build on last year's breakout season.
UCSB also returns Rob Hoyle, who started 11 games as a freshman, and midfielders Michael Tetteh - a 2009 Second Team All-Big West pick - and Peter McGlynn, who each spent significant time in the back last season and may get pushed up a bit this year.
The long anticipated addition of Yavapai College transfers Chris Hunter and Evan McNeil has also been made, as the juniors will finally hit the pitch with the Gauchos after sitting out the 2009 season.
"The big additions are Chris and Evan, which gives us two big players that really solidify the back," Vom Steeg said. "So, I feel now we are in a situation where we have lots of flexibility and are able to go with some different players.
"There will be a lot of competition all over the field, but particularly in the back. At this point, Boxall and Hunter will be the main two players at the center of the defense and out wide we have McNeil, Hoyle, McGlynn, and Tetteh, depending on what we are doing. James Kiffe also had a good spring for us as a left back. There are other players in our program that as they develop will keep pushing some of the other guys."
On Thursday, we will look at UCSB's midfield prospects for 2010.
The Gauchos open the 2010 season with an exhibition against Westmont on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.
Season tickets for the 2010 soccer season are now available. All season ticket packages include tickets for the 2010 Men's College Cup, which is being hosted by UCSB on Dec. 10-12 at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium. Individual season tickets start at just $75 and include one ticket to all home men and women's regular season games and one 2010 Men's College Cup all-session ticket. UCSB staff and faculty can purchase their season tickets for a reduced rate of $50.
To purchase your tickets for the 2010 soccer season or for more information, please call (805) 893-UCSB, visit the Ticket Office located inside the Intercollegiate Athletics building on campus or buy online by clicking here.