Aug. 1, 2006
SAN BRUNO, CA - The San Francisco men's soccer team was selected as the preseason favorite to capture its third straight West Coast Conference title, edging out Bay Area rival Santa Clara for the first place spot in the 2006 WCC preseason coaches poll. The Dons and the Broncos each received three first place votes, but USF received 32 overall points, while SCU tallied 31 total points. San Diego received the remaining first place vote and was picked to finish third with 28 points, while Loyola Marymount garnered 23 points to snag the No. 4 spot. Portland and Saint Mary's tied for fifth in the poll with 12 points apiece, and Gonzaga rounded out the poll at No. 7 with nine points.
San Francisco, who went undefeated over its final five league contests to win its second straight conference crown last season, brings back seven starters including the team's top four goal scorers from the 2005 campaign. Senior Aaron Chandler, the 2004 WCC Player of the Year, returns in the attack and will be joined in the starting lineup by 2005 WCC Defensive Player of the Year Rob Valentino. Head Coach Erik Visser also returns senior goalkeeper Geremy Uhl, who enters the season ranked eighth on the WCC career list with 17 shutouts.
Santa Clara, picked to finish second, earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season last year after going 13-6-3 and 6-4-2 in WCC contests. The Broncos return six starters as well as forward Keith DeVey, who was the team's top scorer a year ago with six goals and four assists. Head Coach Cameron Rast also welcomes one of the nation's top-ranked recruiting classes to SCU this fall.
San Diego was picked third after narrowly missing out on NCAA Tournament selection in 2005. The Toreros bring back one of the deepest goal scoring groups in the conference, as 76% of the team's goal scoring production returns from last year. The returning group is headlined by first team All-WCC selection Kevin Meissner and goalkeeper Lance Friesz, who has started 60 straight games in the Torero net.
Loyola Marymount, tabbed fourth, will field one of the most experienced units in the conference as 19 letterwinners and eight starters return to Head Coach Paul Krumpe's squad. The Lions bring back three of the team's top four scorers from last year's 8-8-4 team, and boast one of the top midfields in the conference with the return of Diego Barrera, Trini Gomez, and All-WCC first team choice Junior Ybarra.
Portland was tabbed for a fifth place finish along with Saint Mary's. The Pilots fielded the youngest squad in the conference last season and should be youthful once again, as two-time first team All-WCC goalkeeper Luis Robles is the only senior on the Portland roster. Sophomore forward Alex Elliott was UP's top scorer last season with five goals, and earned valuable experience with the Canadian Under-20 team over the summer. The Gaels are coming off of one of the best seasons in program history, as the team went 9-9-1 to tie a program high for wins. Head Coach Adam Cooper takes the reins for his first year at the helm and welcomes back sophomore midfielder Carlos Diaz, who led the WCC and set the Saint Mary's single-season record with 11 assists en route to first team All-WCC honors in 2005.
Gonzaga checked in at No. 7 in the preseason poll despite the return of junior forward George Josten, who led the WCC with 12 goals last season. Einar Thorarinsson was tabbed for WCC Co-Coach of the Year accolades after leading the Zags to a 7-9-4 finish in 2005.
2006 Men's Soccer Preseason Poll
1. San Francisco - 32 (3)
2. Santa Clara - 31 (3)
3. San Diego - 28 (1)
4. Loyola Marymount - 23
5(t). Portland - 12
5(t). Saint Mary's - 12
7. Gonzaga - 9
(First place votes)