The action was intense in the tight playing area on Cate School’s soccer field. Whomever had the ball at his feet didn’t have much time to dribble away from the pressure and pass to an open teammate. If the player didn’t make a quick decision, he found himself being dispossessed and scrambling to get back and defend.
Under duress, most of the players on the ball were composed and confident.
The drill revealed one of the strengths of this year’s UCSB men’s soccer team: lots of players who have experience handling the speed and pace of the college game.
“This is an older and mature group,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said at the team’s first workout on Friday. “Most coaches will tell you we have so much to cover because the reality is it’s only college soccer that you have to play seven days after your first day of practice. But, having a lot of experienced, older players who understand the game means that very early on our conversation is very different.”
The addition of several transfers — players like forward Dion Acoff (Creighton), forward Achille Campion (Belhaven University), midfielder Goffin Boyoko (Auburn-Montgomery), defender Daniel Welsh (Maryland-Baltimore County) — fortify a team already loaded with experienced players.
Leading the corps of veteran players are seniors Machael David and Peter McGlynn. David, who played injured most of last season, worked during the offseason with Dr. Marcus Elliiott of the Peak Performance Project to improve on his fitness and strength. With the graduation of All-American Luis Silva, David figures be more of an attacking midfielder this season.
McGlynn returns after an ankle injury derailed his 2011 season. Vom Steeg touts the senior as the “best right back in the country.”
Other returning players who started last season include goalkeeper André Grandt, centerback Peter Schmetz, holding midfielder Fifi Baiden, midfielders Nic Ryan and Josue Madueno, forward Dom Sarle and defenders Matt Glodack and Marshall Cazares. Schmetz, Sarle and Madueno were All Big-West selections.
A newcomer Vom Steeg expects to break into the starting 11 is Ema Boateng, the Gatorade boys soccer National Player of the Year from Cate School. Boateng didn’t practice on Friday because he was waiting for a medical clearance from UCSB.
The Gaucho open their season on Saturday, Aug. 18 with the annual crosstown exhibition game against Westmont at Harder Stadium. The regular season kicks off on Aug. 26 at Loyola Marymount. Their first home match is Sept. 7 against Valparaiso.
UCSB was an unanimous choice to win the Big West Conference’s North Division. The conference has gone to a two-division format for the first time. UC Irvine was picked to win the South Division.
The Gauchos, who are ranked 11th in the country in the NSCAA preseason poll, received all 18 first-place vote to win the Big West North. UC Davis was picked second followed by Cal Poly and newcomer Sacramento State. In the South Division, UC Irvine was followed by Cal State Northridge, UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton. Irvine had six first-place votes and Northridge and Fullerton received one each.
UCSB also had three players named to the Preseason All-Conference Team: seniors Machael David, Peter McGlynn and Dion Acoff.