Aug. 12, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara is the favorite to capture the 2008 Big West women's soccer championship, according to a vote conducted by the nine head coaches in the annual preseason poll. The Gauchos picked up four first place votes and 74 points to narrowly edge two-time defending league co-champion Long Beach State, which collected three first place nods and 73 points.
The Gauchos have revamped their squad for 2008 after a host of injuries plagued last season's 6-10-4 club. The team welcomes back forward Genelle Ives, who sat out the 2007 campaign with an injury. Ives earned All-Big West First Team honors after tallying seven goals and four assists in 2006. She is joined by 2007 Big West Freshman of the Year Kailyn Kugler (6G, 2A) and senior Michelle Russell (4G, 2A). Kugler and Russell were UCSB's top two scorers last year.
UC Santa Barbara brings in a wealth of incoming talent to pair with eight returning starters. Online service Soccer Buzz rated the Gaucho recruiting class 38th-best in the nation and tops among Big West programs. In addition, the Gauchos added a duo of sophomore Division I transfers in Nicole Romanowski and Kylie McDonald. Both players earned Honorable Mention All-West Coast Conference recognition at Pepperdine in 2007. Finally, the defense is anchored by senior and two-time All-Big West First Team performer Rachael Ritchey.
"I am very optimistic," said head coach Paul Stumpf. "The talent level of this group is very high. The competition at every position makes everyone uncomfortable, but sharp. I am excited."
Long Beach State returns 10 starters and 21 letterwinners from a squad that went 13-7-0 overall and 6-2 in league play, capturing a share of the regular season crown for the second straight season. The 49ers have nearly 100 percent of their offense back in tow, led by senior All-Big West First Team standouts Kim Silos and Hayley Bolt. Silos has topped the league in scoring for three straight years and tallied 23 points on seven goals and nine assists in 2007. Bolt, a second team All-West Region choice by Soccer Buzz, had four goals and four assists. Kristen Kiefer and Lindsey Bullock combined for 11 goals as standout freshmen in 2007, with Kiefer earning all-conference second team recognition. LBSU also returns senior goalkeeper Liz Ramos. She needs three shutouts to break the Big West career record of 28.
Finishing third and fourth in the poll were Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton, respectively. The two programs met in the 2007 Big West Tournament championship match, with the Titans advancing to their third straight NCAA Tournament. The Mustangs received the remaining two first place votes and had 62 points, nipping Fullerton with 60 points.
UC Irvine had 40 points to come in fifth, followed by Pacific (30) and Cal State Northridge (26) in sixth and seventh, respectively. Rounding out the poll was UC Riverside with 25 points and UC Davis with 15.
UCSB will play an exhibition match on Saturday, Aug. 16, when it hosts Westmont College in a 7:00 p.m. match. The Gauchos open the regular season on Friday, Aug. 22, when they travel to Nevada.
2008 Women's Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll Results
No. School Pts. 1. UC Santa Barbara (4) 74 2. Long Beach State (3) 73 3. Cal Poly (2) 62 4. Cal State Fullerton 60 5. UC Irvine 40 6. Pacific 30 7. Cal State Northridge 26 8. UC Riverside 25 9. UC Davis 15
( ) First-place votes