The annual Big West men’s soccer preseason coaches poll revealed that UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine are the favorites to capture the 2012 North and South Division championships, respectively.
The conference released the preseason poll on Thursday.
This year will be the first with two divisions in the conference as Sacramento State joined the Big West as an associate member in men’s soccer. The eight teams are divided into two four-team groups based on geography.
UCSB was a unanimous pick to win the North Division. The Gauchos received all eight first-place votes for 32 points.
UCSB returns six starters from last season’s squad that finished 15-7-1 overall and reached the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight season. The Gauchos welcome back three all-conference performers in Dom Sarle, Josue Madueno and Peter Schmetz. Heralded newcomer Dion Acoff, a transfer from Creighton who earned All-Missouri Valley Conference Second Team honors in 2011, bolsters a Gaucho offense that is without its top three scorers from a year ago. UCSB is ranked No. 11 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire preseason poll.
UC Davis finished in second with 20 points. Cal Poly and Sacramento State rounded out the North Division poll with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
The South Division favorite is UC Irvine, which notched six first-place votes for 29 points. The defending Big West regular season and tournament champions made the NCAA Tournament field for the third time in the last four seasons. Five starters return from the team that notched a school record 16 wins. The Anteaters are led by the only returning member of the 2011 All-Big West First Team in senior defender Everett Pitts. All-conference second team selection Marco Franco and honorable mention choices Lester Hayes III and Christopher Santana also are back in uniform. UCI is ranked No. 13 in the NSCAA preseason rankings.
Cal State Northridge earned one first-place vote and 23 points to finish second in the South Division poll. UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton accumulated 15 and 13 points, respectively. The Titans collected the remaining first-place vote.
This is the first season in which the coaches voted for an 11-player preseason all-conference team. The three forwards are Acoff, Cal State Northridge sophomore Edwin Rivas and UC Davis sophomore Matt Wiesenfarth. UC Santa Barbara senior Machael David, UC Riverside junior Aaron Long and Santana comprise the three midfielders. UCR senior Jose Diaz, UCSB senior Peter McGlynn and Pitts are the three defenders. The two goalkeepers include CSUN senior Michael Abalos and Sacramento State junior Cesar Castillo. The preseason squad contains some familar faces as Pitts (1st), Wiesenfarth (2nd), Rivas (HM), Santana (HM), Diaz (HM) and Abalos (HM) were members of the 2011 postseason all-conference team.
2012 Big West Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll
1. UC Santa Barbara (8) 32
2. UC Davis 20
3. Cal Poly 16
4. Sacramento State 12
1. UC Irvine (6) 29
2. Cal State Northridge (1) 23
3. UC Riverside 15
4. Cal State Fullerton (1) 13
( ) First-place votes