Big West Men's Soccer Begins 2017 Season
Men's Soccer Weekly Release No. 1
Men's Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll
The opening day of the 2017 Big West men's soccer season features three contests against top-10 opponents.
#STARTBIG | #BWCMSOC
Opportunities to claim starring roles are going to be plentiful in 2017. None of the 13 players named to the 2016 All-Big West First Team is returning to the pitch for this season. UC Santa Barbara senior midfielder Kevin Feucht, who earned 2016 Big West Midfielder of the Year accolades, had the distinction of being the lone returning member of that team. But he sustained a season-ending knee injury on the first day of practice. Feucht ranked second among conference players with 11 goals and 24 points last year.
Six of the 11 members from the all-conference second team are back in uniform for the 2017 season. The trio of junior forward Kristian Heptner, senior forward Kyle Higgins and senior midfielder Noah Wilson gives UC Davis the foundation for a run at the North Division title. Sacramento State returns a pair of seniors in Paul Geyer and James Del Curto, while junior Ross McPhie headlines a talented Cal State Fullerton squad.
Eleven players who were named All-Big West Honorable Mention also return – Eric Kam (Cal Poly), Christian Enriquez (Cal Poly), Robert Coronado (Cal State Fullerton), Emmanuel Usen Jr. (CSUN), Evan Barrett (UC Davis), Roy Boateng (UC Davis), Ivan Canales (UC Irvine), Eduardo Sanchez (UC Riverside), Vincent Morales (UC Riverside), Randy Mendoza (UC Santa Barbara) and Titouan Le Roux (UC Santa Barbara).
A Look At The Schedule
Big West schools have 67 games on the non-conference schedule prior to the conference opener on Sept. 28. Forty-two of the 67 games take place against rival conferences in the West Coast (24), Western Athletic (14) and Pac-12 (4).
In addition, 12 games take place against opponents ranked in the preseason Top 25 of the United Soccer Coaches poll, including four on the opening weekend of the season. Cal Poly faces No. 7 Indiana and No. 10 Notre Dame at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament in South Bend, Ind. Cal State Fullerton travels to No. 5 Clemson while UC Irvine visits No. 9 Louisville.
Raz Begins New Era At UC Irvine
An individual with heavy Big West roots is at the controls in his first season as head coach at UC Irvine. Yossi Raz, who spent 13 years at rival CSUN – four as a student-athlete and nine more as an assistant coach – joined the Anteater staff as the fourth head coach in program history. He most recently was the head coach at Cal Poly Pomona for four years, accumulating a 54-17-12 record. In 2015, his team reached the NCAA Tournament championship match and followed that up with a trip to the third round in 2016. He earned California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year honors in 2014 after leading the Broncos to a 17-1-2 record and CCAA regular season and tournament titles.
Top Statistical Returnees
The Big West lost nine of its top 10 goal scorers from a year ago. The top returning goal scorer is UC Davis senior Noah Wilson with seven. Wilson’s 17 points is also tops among conference returners. UC Irvine junior Ivan Canales and Cal State Fullerton senior Robert Coronado are the top returning assist men with seven apiece.
NCAA Tournament Opponents On Tap
Big West squads are taking on a challenging 2017 men’s soccer non-conference schedule, playing a total of 12 contests versus nine different opponents ranked in the top 25 of the preseason United Soccer Coaches poll.
The non-conference slate looks even more impressive when considering the total number of opponents that reached the NCAA Tournament last year. Big West squads are playing a total of 22 contests against 14 different opponents who participated in the 48-team NCAA Tournament bracket.
Cal Poly has five NCAA Tourney foes on that list, including traditional powerhouses Indiana, Notre Dame and Maryland. UC Santa Barbara plays four of those teams, with heavyweight Akron among the battles. Cal State Fullerton faces a quartet of postseason participants – highly ranked Clemson the most prominent of them. CSUN and UC Irvine have three NCAA foes on their slates, including common opponents in New Mexico and Denver. The Anteaters also have a date with top-10 foe Louisville, while the Matadors are the lone Big West team to take on UCLA this year. All eight Big West squads play at least one opponent that appeared in the NCAA Tournament field last year.
Here is a list of opponents which played in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
San Diego State
CAL STATE FULLERTON
UC SANTA BARBARA
San Diego State