The Party Starts For Men's Soccer As Conference Play Begins Wednesday
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With the bulk of non-conference play in the books, Big West play takes its turn in the spotlight as two league matches are scheduled for Wednesday. UC Santa Barbara visits nemesis Cal State Fullerton, while two-time defending Big West Tournament champion UC Irvine takes on resurgent UC Riverside at home. The two matches are the first step toward the Big West tourney November 10 & 13.
UCR Looking To Rewrite The Script
A year ago UC Riverside was just 1-7-0 against non-conference foes on its way to an 0-9-1 conference season. Bouyed by a strong offense and an improved defense, 2010 has shaped up very differently for the Highlanders. The squad is 3-4-1 heading into Wednesday's conference showdown with UC Irvine, the first time the club has won at least three non-conference games since 2008. The next step for the Highlanders will be a daunting task as the club has not recorded double-digit points in conference play since the 2004 season.
On Second Thought...There's More People Here!
Last week, the Big West saw one of its home stadiums hold a large crowd as 8,717 showed up to watch the match between UCLA and Cal Poly at Spanos Stadium. That figure was surpassed last Friday at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium as 15,896 went through the gates to watch UCLA against UC Santa Barbara.
The crowd is a school and Big West record, the largest in NCAA history at an on-campus facility and the third-largest regular season crowd in NCAA lore. Among all matches in NCAA men’s soccer history, the attendance figure is 16th, while this is also just the fourth time (and first since 1980) a crowd of 15,000 or more has attended a regular season NCAA men’s soccer match.
The attendance figure in the match was greater than the crowds at two football games between FBS schools and nearly twice more than an FCS showdown between defending national champion Richmond and Delaware. It also was greater than the attendance at three Major League Soccer matches played over the weekend.
These Walls Have Not Fallen
UC Irvine's Andrew Fontein and UC Santa Barbara's Sam Hayden split the Big West Defensive Player of the Week honor this week, but the two keepers have been stellar all season long.
Fontein has recorded all seven wins for UCI, posting an incredible 0.25 goals against average to go along with 22 saves and seven shutouts in eight matches. By comparison, the rest of the league has recorded 10 clean sheets in 44 matches. Fontein’s seven wins this year also give him 27 for his career, good for seventh on the all-time list.
Three of those shutouts belong to Hayden, who is the reigning Big West Goalkeeper of the Year. He owns an 0.66 goals against average, had made 31 saves and now owns 19 shutouts in just 31 career matches.
I See Your 10 And Match It
UC Irvine has a lot of offensive firepower, but its two senior stars are the headliners of the 'Eater attack. Spencer Thompson and Amani Walker both have 10 points on four goals and two assists. They are the only pair of teammates that have amassed double digit points and the only two players in the league to have 10+ points through the first month of play.
CSUN Explodes On Offense
Cal State Northridge fans have been waiting to see the young club get on track offensively and got what they were waiting for last Sunday against Air Force. The Matadors scored four times against the Falcons, one more than their season total in seven previous games. Camilo Rojas also ended his long scoring drought as his goal in the 46th minute was his first tally since November 8, 2008 at home against UC Irvine.
Prepare For A Nailbiter If They’re Involved
UC Davis is only 2-6 heading into its conference opener Saturday against UC Santa Barbara, but the Aggies have shown they’re a tough side against anyone they play. Since opening the season with a 3-1 loss, the squad has played seven consecutive one-goal games, including a pair of overtime contests. Even though the Aggies have only a 2-5 record in that stretch, they've played some difficult squads such as Washington, Portland, Saint Mary’s (Calif.) and rival Sacramento State.
Up and Down
With six of its seven September matches in the books, Cal Poly had endured an up and down start to the season. The Mustangs started things off with a 1-0 win at Denver, then downed perennial power Indiana following a tough overtime loss to Air Force.
Since that solid start, Cal Poly is 0-2-1 with losses to Notre Dame and Loyola Marymount and a tie against UCLA. Much of that can be attributed to some early season injuries and card suspensions as well as a tough opening schedule.
College Cup The Goal
The College Cup is the goal for each DI men's soccer program, but this season the showcase event has a Big West feel. For the first time since 2006, the College Cup will be held at an on-campus venue as UC Santa Barbara hosts the showcase at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium December 10-12. The 17,000-seat venue will have an improved look as a new field, pressbox and plaza are among the many improvements geared at preparing the stadium for the College Cup.
UCI's Thompson Named to MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List
UC Irvine's Spencer Thompson will have even more attention thrust on his shoulders this season as the senior was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, the preseason ledger of the highest individual award in intercollegiate soccer. The native of Ahwatukee, Ariz., is one of 39 players on the initial list and the lone player from a Big West school. Thompson was named to the list following a 2009 season in which he recorded 18 points (7 g, 4 a) and was named first team All-Big West and first team All-Far West region. The recipients of the MAC Hermann Trophy are selected by NCAA Division I coaches who are members of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Voting for the MAC Hermann Trophy is conducted in late November, when a field of 15 semifinalists is reduced to three finalists. Those three will be invited to the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011, where a news conference will be held to announce the winner, followed by a banquet to honor the three finalists.