Nov. 20, 2007
IRVINE, Calif. - League Champion UC Santa Barbara walked away with three of the six individual postseason honors awarded by the Big West Conference, it was announced Tuesday. In addition to seven players earning first team accolades, Andy Iro earned a third-straight Defender of the Year award, while Chris Pontius was named the Offensive Player of the Year and Ciaran O'Brien took home the award for Midfielder of the Year.
In all, the defending national champions had a total of eight players named all-conference and set a school-record with seven players earning All-Big West First Team distinction. The Gauchos took home seven of the 13 first team spots and the eight all-league selections was the most among the conference's seven teams.
A four-time All-Big West First Team selection, Iro became the first player in league history to win a major award three-times after he was named the conference's top defender once again this season. The Liverpool, England native was the centerpiece of a UCSB defense that allowed 19 goals in as many games this season. A preseason All-American and Hermann Trophy Award Candidate, Iro led the Gauchos to a 0.95 goals against average and five shutouts in 2007.
Pontius earned his first-career All-Big West First Team selection after a breakout season in 2007. Entering the year with just four goals in 43 career matches, the Yorba Linda, Calif. native returned to the forward position and went on to lead the conference with 11 goals and 24 points. Pontius scored three times to lead the Gauchos to a 4-0 rout over UC Irvine in a nationally televised match October 3 and earned National Team of the Week honors from Soccer America and College Soccer News for his performance. He also found the net twice in Santa Barbara's 3-2 comeback victory at Cal State Northridge November 13 to help UCSB clinch its fifth conference title in the last seven years.
Newcomer Ciaran O'Brien earned a nod for the All-Big West First Team after a very impressive first season in the blue and gold. The transfer from the University of San Diego proved to be an excellent addition for UCSB, tallying seven goals and a conference-best nine assists for 23 total points, which was second only to Pontius. The native of Federal Way, Wash. has been a big reason why the Gauchos have gone unbeaten in their last seven matches, scoring five goals and dishing out five assists over that span. In fact, O'Brien has either scored or assisted on 10 of Santa Barbara's last 17 goals overall. He was named the Big West Player of the Week three times this season and also earned Soccer America and College Soccer News national team of the week honors on three occasions.
Joining Iro, Pontius, and O'Brien on the first team was another 2007 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy candidate in Eric Avila. The junior midfielder earned his third straight All-Big West First Team selection after finishing the regular season with four goals and eight assists. The Gauchos are 11-0 win Avila finds the net over the last two seasons.
Four other Gauchos were named all-conference for the first time in their careers, with Tino Nuñez, Alfonso Motagalvan, and Brennan Tennelle rounding out UCSB's first team selections. All three players set new career-highs in terms of goals scored, contributing to one of the conference's most dangerous offenses. Nuñez returned for his senior season in excellent shape and it paid off, as the forward scored five goals and dished out five assists. After making a name for himself defensively during Santa Barbara's title run a year ago, Motagalvan proved to be a tremendous asset on the offensive side this season, tallying four goals and four assists. Even the defensive-minded Tennelle got into the mix this season, chipping in with two goals and three helper, both personal bests.
UCSB's other all-conference award winner was an honorable mention honoree as Jon Curry also took home a league accolade for the first time. The sophomore midfielder finished the regular season with one goal and was tied for third on the squad with five assists.