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Men's Soccer

Big West Men's Soccer Tournament Beckons

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[UPDATED Nov. 11] The regular season is at an end and the postseason awaits four clubs as the 2010 Big West Men’s Soccer Tournament will be held this week. The tourney will decide not only the 2010 Big West champion, but who receives the automatic bid into the 48-team NCAA Tournament.

The Championship Cup Awaits...#4 CSF vs. #2 UCSB
The Big West Championship trophy will be hoisted this weekend as #4 Cal State Fullerton and #2 UC Santa Barbara will battle for the league tournament title. The game will be played at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium, the second time in the three-year history of the tournament that the title match has been played on UC Santa Barbara’s home field. This will be the first postseason meeting between the two clubs.

The Titans advanced to the championship game by virtue of a 2-1 upset win over top-seeded UC Irvine at Anteater Stadium. The victory over UCI was only the second for the club in the past 20 meetings with the Anteaters and tied the all-time series between the two at 18-18-6. CSF split its two matches against UC Santa Barbara this season, winning at Titan Stadium on September 29 and losing at Harder a week later. The Titan win over UCSB marked its first win over the Gauchos since October 25, 2003, an 11-match losing streak. A Titan win would give them their first postseason appearance as a member of the Big West since 1986.

UC Santa Barbara is in the final after topping rival Cal Poly, 2-1 in overtime. UCSB is in the championship match for the third consecutive season, but have lost the previous two games, including a 4-1 setback at home last year to UC Irvine.  A Gaucho win would give them their first Big West Tournament title and land them in the NCAA Tournament for the ninth consecutive season.

The Titans' Super Sub
Cal State Fullerton’s Bryan Escalante probably figured he'd be watching Trevor Whiddon between the pipes Wednesday, but a practice injury to Whiddon made Escalante the first stringer. All Escalante did was make seven saves in his first career start, resulting in a 2-1 win over top-seeded UC Irvine. Even more impressive was that Escalante's effort came as he was still recovering from an illness which forced him to miss practice Monday.

The Young Guns
UC Santa Barbara has an excellent veteran presence, but its freshmen and sophomores delivered the big win over Cal Poly. Freshman David Opoku scored the equalizing goal, then combined with sophomore Josue Madueno to assist on sophomore Nic Ryan’s game-winning goal. In all, UCSB’s top two scorers on the year, Sam Garza (24 pts.) and Opoku (17 pts.) , are both underclassmen.

Silent Assassin
When opposing defenses aren’t careful against Cal State Fullerton, their top striker Nick Posthuma can wheel and put one in the back of the net. Posthuma is not one to just turn and fire wrecklessly as he owns just 31 shots in 18 matches, but he does have nine goals off those 31 fires. Of the players in the league that have scored at least six goals, Posthuma is one of two who has not put up at least 40 shots (David Opoku, UCSB - 24 shots, 6 g).

Fontein Reaches Postseason...Record in Sight
UC Irvine goalkeeper Andrew Fontein has quietly been in pursuit of one of the most storied records in the history of the league. Fontein has an 0.59 goals against average this year, which would currently place him fourth on the single-season Big West list. The record is held by Harry Field of former member UNLV who posted an incredible GAA of 0.45 way back in 1984. In fact, only three players in Big West history have posted a GAA lower than 0.55 for the season, the most recent of which is Dan Kennedy in 2004 (0.55).

The Ups And Downs Of Youth
It was a rough season for a traditionally strong Cal State Northridge team as Terry Davila’s young squad struggled to a 3-14-2 record, the first sub-.500 season for the squad as a member of the Big West. There were tangible signs of progress throughout the season though. The Matadors tied a traditionally strong Washington club, beat eventual Big West regular season champion UC Irvine on the road, topped Big West tournament participant Cal State Fullerton on the road and dominated a nationally-ranked UCLA side at home before succumming to a 2-1 defeat. With a roster loaded with youth, expect the club to be battling for a playoff berth in the near future.

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.