The 2015 men's soccer season gets underway this weekend with 12 games. UC Santa Barbara hosts No. 8 Stanford, UC Davis travels to No. 10 Washington and No. 20 UC Irvine entertains Loyola-Chicago.
For Openers: Cal Poly seeks to snap a three-game losing streak in season openers when UNLV visits Spanos Stadium on Friday. It is the first time Cal Poly has opened the season at home since 2011, the last year the program recorded a win in game No. 1. The opponent that year? UNLV.
Magnificent Minter: Senior Chase Minter, one of 30 players on the “Watch List” for the MAC Hermann Trophy that honors the nation’s top collegiate player, enters the season ranked No. 2 in Cal Poly history with 15 career assists. He needs six more helpers to tie the record.
Weapons Galore: The Mustangs return their top six scorers who accounted for 24 of the 29 goals the team scored a year ago. Cal Poly welcomes back nine starters and seven All-Big West honorees to a club expected to challenge for the North Division title.
Wade’s World: Senior goalkeeper Wade Hamilton enters the season just 27 saves shy of the Big West career top 10.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
For Openers: Cal State Fullerton looks to win a season opener for the first time since 2009. The Titans face Ohio State in the opener of the Bert & Iris Wolstein Classic in Columbus, Ohio. CSF has recorded an 0-3-2 record in its five previous openers.
What A Start: Head coach George Kuntz made quite an impression in year one at Cal State Fullerton. For starters, he led the Titans to their first Big West Tournament championship. In addition, he guided them to their first NCAA Tournament appearance and double-digit win season since 2010. CSF finished 10-8-6 in 2014.
Offense Rediscovered: The Titans scored a single-season program record 34 goals last season, but lost their top four scorers who racked up 21 of those scores. The foursome of Julian Okai, Mitchell Bell, Diego Sanchez and Robert Coronado each scored two goals in 2014.
Recruiting Haul: College Soccer News has assigned CSF’s incoming recruiting class a No. 16 ranking entering the year.
For Openers: The Matadors are 9-4-1 all-time in season openers, and hope to better that mark when they host Loyola-Chicago on Sunday. The last two times CSUN opened a season at home – 2013 and 2011 – the team emerged with a win.
Search Party For Offense: CSUN tied a program record for fewest goals in a season with 19 last year. Eleven of those goals were scored by first team all-conference standout Sagi Lev-Ari, who has since graduated. Opportunities abound for newfound scoring options.
Familiarity In Goal: While the offense remains somewhat unsettled entering the season, the Matadors are solid in goal and on the backline. Two-year starter Adam Hobbs has posted a career 0.96 GAA, and he has two-time All-Big West First Team defender Trevor Morley to back him up.
All-Conference Aptitude: CSUN also returns two additional all-conference talents in junior midfielder Juan Samayoa (2nd Team) and junior defender Patrick Hickman (HM).
For Openers: Sacramento State starts the 2015 season on the road with back-to-back games against SMU and Tulsa. The Hornets last opened a season at home in 2008. This is the third time in the last four seasons that the Hornets have traveled outside of the state of California to open a season.
Defensive Anchor: Junior defender Andrew Gosselin has collected a pair of awards in his first two seasons, earning Big West All-Freshman Team honors and all-conference honorable mention accolades as a sophomore.
Goalie Gab: The Hornets welcome back a pair of goalies who gained significant starting experience last season. Sophomore James Del Curto started six games and picked up two shutouts while posting a 1.91 GAA. Junior Philip Bru started 10 contests, including the last five, and garnered a career-high 11 saves in a scoreless draw with UC Davis.
Road Tested: Sacramento State plays eight of its first 10 games on the road, and has a conference-tying low seven home contests on its schedule. The Hornets played 12 games at home in 2014.
For Openers: UC Davis is beginning its season on the road for the fifth time in the last six seasons, heading to the Emerald State to meet Seattle and Washington this weekend.
Overtime Watch: The Aggies are coming a 2014 season in which they played in an NCAA record 14 overtime games, shattering the old mark of 11 that had been shared by Saint Louis (2003), San Diego State (2009) and the 2011 UC Davis club. The Aggies were 2-3-9 in those OT games.
Fit To Be Tied: With nine ties, the 2014 Aggie squad broke the Big West record for most draws in a single-season. That also tied the NCAA mark accomplished three previous times by Providence (2005), St. John’s (2009) and South Florida (2013).
Welcome Back: UC Davis is happy to have the services of senior Matt Wiesenfarth, who earned a medical redshirt after suffering a season-ending leg injury six games into the 2014 campaign. The forward has scored 13 career goals, including six during his junior season. Senior Lucas Mohageg is the team’s top returning scorer with four goals.
For Openers: UC Irvine has won 10 straight season openers dating back to the 2004 season. The last time the Anteaters lost an opening match was on Sept. 4, 2004 against Navy. UCI’s match with Loyola-Chicago on Friday marks the ninth time in the last 11 years that the program opens up a campaign at home.
Incredible Debut: In his first season as head coach after 17 years of serving as an assistant, Chris Volk took the UCI squad to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and a program-tying record 16 victories. The Anteaters were ranked as high as No. 3 nationally in the NSCAA poll.
All-Region Talent Returns: Two ‘Eaters made the NSCAA All-Far West Region team in 2014 – second team selection Michael Sperber and third team representative Eduardo Calzada. Calzada is UCI’s top returning scorer with seven goals.
Breslin’s Brigade: Senior netminder Michael Breslin enters the 2015 season ranked No. 9 in the Big West record book with 23 career shutouts.
For Openers: UC Riverside has won three straight season openers and seeks its fourth in a row on Monday at San Diego. The Highlanders play six of their first seven matches on the road to commence the 2015 season.
A Program First: On the final day of the 2014 regular season, the Highlanders clinched their first Big West South Division title with a 2-0 victory at preseason league favorite UC Irvine. The win gave UC Riverside a division-best 15 points and a Big West Tournament first round bye
Salazar Encore: Senior Michael Salazar enters the 2015 season projected to be one of the Big West’s top goal scorers. His six goals last season tied him for seventh among the league leaders, and his 61 shots established a UCR single-season record.
Khosravi On Cusp Of Wins Record: Senior goalkeeper Ashkan Khosravi is four wins away from surpassing Charles Alamo (2003-07) as the program’s all-time wins leader. Khosravi has won 18 games in his three previous seasons with the Highlanders.
UC SANTA BARBARA
For Openers: The Gauchos have debuted with a win in six of the last seven seasons. For the first time since 2011, UC Santa Barbara will open a season at home, facing preseason No. 8-ranked Stanford at Harder Stadium Friday. The Gauchos are 0-1-2 in their last three home openers.
Transfer Haven: UCSB welcomes six Division I or II transfers to the 2015 squad. The highest profiled transfer may be sophomore forward Ahinga Selemani, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team following his only season at Michigan.
Offensive Juggernaut: Junior forward Nick DePuy captured Big West Offensive Player of the Year honors after a sizzling finish to the 2014 campaign. Moved from midfielder to forward seven games in, DePuy responded with nine of his 10 goals, including six over the final five contests. He had a conference-best six game-winning strikes.
Vom Steeg Approaches Milestone: Tim Vom Steeg is three wins away from collecting career No. 200 as a Big West head coach.
BIG WEST THROW INS
NCAA TOURNAMENT OPPONENTS ON TAP
Big West squads are tackling a formidable 2015 men’s soccer non-conference schedule, playing a total of 17 games against 11 different opponents which reached last year’s 48-team NCAA Tournament field.
UC Santa Barbara is taking on a conference-high five postseason opponents from the 2014 field, including national runner-up UCLA. The Gauchos also host Stanford, Akron and San Diego, and face Denver at a neutral site. UC Irvine and UC Riverside also play San Diego and UCLA. The Anteaters and Highlanders square off against three postseason foes total, as UCI travels to Creighton and UCR treks to Syracuse.
Here is a list of opponents which reached last year’s NCAA Tournament.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
UC SANTA BARBARA
DIVISIONAL LOOK BACK
Since the Big West switched to a North and South Division setup in 2012, CSUN has won the most overall games (37), followed closely by UC Irvine (36) and UC Santa Barbara (32). In conference play, two straight North Division titles by UCSB has allowed the Gauchos to win 17 league games over the last three seasons, the most by the narrowest of margins over UC Davis. The Aggies have won 16 Big West games over the same span.
MOST OVERALL WINS-LAST 3 YEARS
UC Santa Barbara
Cal State Fullerton
MOST LEAGUE WINS-LAST 3 YEARS
UC Santa Barbara
Cal State Fullerton
BRESLIN MOVES UP IN RECORD BOOK
UC Irvine goalkeeper Michael Breslin enters his senior season entrenched in the Big West career top 10. He ranks ninth in career shutouts (23) and minutes played (6,155) fourth in wins (36), and is tied for seventh in total matches in goal (66). Breslin also stands to make a dent in all-time saves. With 231 saves, Breslin needs just 20 more to tie Fresno State’s Mark Dougherty (1986-89) for 10th place. Breslin, who stopped a career-high 93 shots last season, is in line to become just the fifth netminder in Big West history to surpass the career 300-save mark.
MINTER TARGETED FOR MAC HERMANN TROPHY WATCH LIST
Cal Poly senior Chase Minter was tabbed as one of 30 contenders for the 2015 Missouri Athletic Club’s (MAC) Hermann Trophy, the most prestigious award for college soccer’s national player of the year. Minter’s placement on the 30-player “Watch List” comes on the heels of a 2014 campaign in which he was selected Big West Midfielder of the Year and was namd to the NSCAA All-Far West Region First Team.
The Heath, Texas native is the third Mustang player to appear on the Hermann Trophy watch list, following Mackenzie Pridham in 2013 and Patrick Sigler in 2009. Minter tallied 19 points on seven goals and five assists last season. He ranked third in the Big West in points, while tying for third in both goals and assists. Minter also took a conference sixth-best 53 shots.
The Big West has had at least one player on the Hermann Trophy watch list in 10 of the last 11 years. Near the end of the collegiate regular season, NCAA Division I coaches whose programs are current NSCAA College Services members will trim the list down to 15 players. From that pool, three finalists will be chosen for the award. The winner will be announced Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, at the trophy presentation banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis.
THROUGH THE YEARS
Here is a list of Big West players who have appeared on the MAC Hermann Trophy Preseason Watch List since 2005.
2015 – Chase Minter, Cal Poly
2014 – Sagi Lev-Ari, CSUN
Ismaila Jome, UC Santa Barbara
2013 – Mackenzie Pridham, Cal Poly
2012 – None
2011 – Sam Garza, UC Santa Barbara
2010 – Spencer Thompson, UC Irvine
2009 – Patrick Sigler, Cal Poly
2008 – Chris Pontius, UC Santa Barbara
2007 – Andy Iro, UC Santa Barbara
Eric Avila, UC Santa Barbara
2006 – Andy Iro, UC Santa Barbara
2005 – Tyler Rosenlund, UC Santa Barbara
THREE HONORED BY TOP DRAWER SOCCER
A trio of Big West representatives received recognition from Top Drawer Soccer with their selections to the online publication’s preseason Best XI. Cal Poly’s Chase Minter earned a third team nod at his midfielder spot, while UC Santa Barbara teammates Justin Vom Steeg (goalkeeper) and Geoffrey Acheampong (F) were placed on the Freshman Team.
MORE ACCOLADES FROM TOP DRAWER SOCCER
Top Drawer Soccer also revealed its preseason Top 100 Player Rankings and four Big West names made the list. TDS updates its list on a weekly basis throughout the season. Cal Poly’s Chase Minter was the top-rated Big West player at No. 25.
UC Santa Barbara
The Big West has regularly received its share of national recognition, including in the selection of preseason polls. At least one conference school has appeared in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason top 25 in 12 of the last 13 seasons.