Men's Soccer Preview Day 3: Getting Defensive

Aug. 21, 2009

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The number 39 has bad associations for UC Santa Barbara head men's soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg. It is the number of goals scored against the Gauchos last fall - the most a Vom Steeg-led UCSB soccer team has ever given up.

It is because of those 39 goals that the men's soccer staff centered its recruiting efforts on its defense and why Gaucho fans will see some new faces on the back line in 2009.

Though several faces will be new to the Gaucho back line, UCSB does return junior Michael Boxall, who has plenty of college and international experience under his belt. After competing with the New Zealand Olympic Team in Beijing last summer, Boxall hit the field with UCSB last fall and, at the end of the season, he was named an All-Big West Honorable Mention.

"Obviously Boxall is the biggest player physically and the most imposing," Vom Steeg said. "He is very dominant in terms of physically being able to match up with people and control them. We are counting on him, of course, to have a big season."

After sitting out the 2008 season as a medical redshirt, C.J. Cintas will rejoin the active roster and will be expected to contribute "depth and experience" to the Gaucho lineup, according to Vom Steeg.

Though the Gaucho defense is ripe with newcomers this season, that doesn't mean it will be lacking in experience. The UCSB coaching staff has added a trio of junior college transfers to the roster to help meet its needs on the back line.

Taylor Rivas comes to UCSB via Taft College where he helped his team to the 2008 California Community College Men's Soccer State Championship. He earned Central Valley Conference MVP honors in 2008.

Evan McNeil and Chris Hunter join the Gauchos after leading Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz. to consecutive Division I National Junior College Athletic Association titles and a 60-2 two-year record.

McNeil hails from Castaic, Calif. and was a member of the Cal South Olympic Development Program and was a member of the National Team pool in 2003 and 2005. Hunter comes from South Shields, England and was named the MVP of the NJCAA Regional Championships in 2008.

Freshman Rob Hoyle, who was named as a College Soccer News "100 Freshmen to Keep and Eye On" this week, will also add to the Gaucho defensive artillery. Hoyle comes to Santa Barbara out of Hull, England where he was part of England's U-18 International Boys Squad in 2008 and the captain of the Regional Team.

"All of these players are very, very strong, physical defenders," Vom Steeg said. "That was the real recruiting pitch we used when we went after these defenders - we had to get bigger, we had to get physical and we needed experience. That applies to each one of these guys.

"We now have a collection of players that will add depth which we did not have last year. Last year we were stuck playing lots of midfielders in back and, a lot of times, we did not have a true defender there, now we have a lot of options."

While the defensive line has several fresh faces this season, the Gaucho goalkeeping staff has just one new addition. Sophomores Kristopher Minton and Trond Helge Takset both return after each recording significant minutes during their rookie seasons. Additionally, UCSB welcomes Sam Hayden, another transfer out of Yavapai College to the mix.

Minton started 14 games in the goal last year and recorded 42 saves. His record was 5-4-5 and he recorded a .667 saves percentage.

"Minton is the most physically imposing of the goalkeepers and he gives us that presence in the goal," Vom Steeg said. "He is big, strong, and can take a goal kick or a punt and drive it maybe 60-75 yards down the field."

Takset started seven games and recorded a 5-3 record with 23 saves.

"Trond is not a physical-type of goalkeeper, but he is very smart and he is a good shot-stopper," Vom Steeg said.

Hayden, who brings two years of junior college experience to UCSB, was a two-time NJCAA Goalkeeper of the Year and All-Conference selection at Yavapai. He also earned Second Team National All-American honors.

"Sam is physically the least imposing because of his size (5-11), but at the same time, he is our most athletic goalie," Vom Steeg said. "His decision making is good, he is very quick off his line and he has excellent hands."

With the addition of some very talented defenders and the increased experience in the goal, the 2009 Gauchos should have very few problems stifling their opposition's offensive output.

"Defense is a priority," Vom Steeg said. "I am not worried about our offense because we have enough attacking options and we have a very good midfield for service. If we can fix our defense, there is no reason we cannot have a very, very successful season."

It's not just this season that the Gauchos are optimistic about, however. UCSB enters this year with a group of men that should all still be around for the 2010 season, the year Santa Barbara will host the College Cup at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.

"It's kind of a two-year run here," Vom Steeg said. "It will take us some time to get everyone on the same page, but we should have this group for two years.

"Our goal this year is to take this group and be really good by the time league hits and then be very hard to beat in the playoffs. Then take wherever we leave off from the playoffs straight into the 2010 season without having to make adjustments. We still have room to get better, but at least all of the pieces are here. Everything we need is in the program right now."

To check out the first two parts of the 2009 season preview, check out the links below:
Season Preview Day 1: Forward Thinking
Season Preview Day 2: Minding the Midfield

The 2009 men's soccer season will begin this Saturday when the Gauchos host cross-town foe Westmont in an exhibition match at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium. The game is slated for a 7 p.m. start.

Season tickets for the 2009 men's soccer season are on sale for only five bucks a game. Fans who purchase 2009 season tickets will be guaranteed the opportunity to buy tickets for the 2010 Men's NCAA College Cup hosted by UCSB at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium Dec. 10-12, 2010. To accompany the successful "Soccer Town, USA" slogan as part of the College Cup bid, a discounted family valued offer is also available where a family of five can catch games for only $2.50 per game! Family Plan package also includes three free youth t-shirts and memberships to the new UCSB kids club: GKids. Fans can easily buy tickets online or by calling 805-893-UCSB. To purchase your tickets click here.

The Golden Scarf: A New Tradition To reward and recognize our loyal soccer supporters, we will present the "Golden Scarf" to fans who have donated and/or purchased season tickets for five consecutive seasons. The scarves will be presented during a special halftime ceremony during the October 2 game vs. Indiana.

- UCSBgauchos.com -