UCSB men’s soccer has set high expectations for its season in hopes of once again returning to the elite of college soccer.
“It’s all about winning a national championship this year,” senior midfielder Machael David said. “I think we have the talent and coaches to win.”
To begin the season, the Gauchos rank No. 11 in the nation and took all 18 first- place votes in the newly established Big West North Division. Furthermore, the team was selected as one of 10 squads expected to compete for the national title, according to topdrawersoccer.com.
“We want to win conference and then the Big West Championship,” junior midfielder Fifi Baiden said. “After we do that, we have a huge expectation to win a national championship.”
Last year, UCSB finished with a 15-7- 1 record and reached the Sweet 16 of the 2011 NCAA Tournament before falling to Creighton. The team lost incredible goal scorers in Sam Garza and Luis Silva, but the Gaucho’s recruiting class was voted tenth in the nation by College Soccer News.
“People won’t even notice that Silva and Garza are gone,” David said. “The new recruits are unbelievable. They blend with the team really well.”
One player expected to help fill the gaps and score goals is freshman midfielder Ema Boateng, the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year for men’s soccer.
“He is fast … you can’t stop him,” David said. “People don’t know what’s coming, but he’s going to cause trouble. He’s going to score goals.”
Senior forward Dion Acoff also joins the team after transferring from Creighton where he was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection. Acoff was named to the 2012 Preseason All- Conference Team along with David and senior defender Peter McGlynn.
Also joining the midfield for the Gauchos is junior Goffin Boyoko. Boyoko transferred from Auburn University Montgomery, where he earned 2011 NAIA First Team All-American and All-Southern States Athletic Conference First Team honors.
“We’ve got really experienced players coming into the program, so they have a feel for college soccer,” Baiden said. “We have a deep team. There is somebody ready to step in at every position.” Returning for UCSB to aid the attack is junior forward Dom Sarle, and senior midfielders Josue Madueno and David. Both Sarle and Madueno were 2011 All- Big West players. David looks to return after missing significant time due to injury.
“It’s going to be a group show because everyone can score goals, even our defenders,” David said. “Last year we looked to Silva; this year everyone can score.”
On the defensive end, UCSB returns the majority of its starting lineup, including junior defender Peter Schmetz, Baiden and senior midfielder Nic Ryan. McGlynn also returns after an injury plagued season.
“Our defenders are looking really good,” David said. “We have seven good defenders who could start for any DI team in the nation.”
Back in the goal will be senior goalkeeper Andre Grandt, who played every minute for the Gauchos last season and tallied 1.39 goals against average and 70 saves.
Season highlights for UCSB include home matches against Harvard, Stanford and No. 2 UCLA. Up next for UCSB is a road game at Loyola Marymount on Sunday, Aug. 27 at 3 p.m.