Aug. 3, 2006
San Bruno, CA- The Saint Mary's men's soccer team was picked to finish fifth as voted by the West Coast Conference coaches. The Gaels received 12 points in the preseason poll. San Francisco was selected as the favorite with 32 points, which include three first place votes. Santa Clara closely followed with 31 points, including three first place votes while San Diego rounded out the top three with 28 points and one first place vote.
Loyola Marymount (23), Portland and Saint Mary's (12) and Gonzaga (9) rounded out the voting by the conference coaches.
Saint Mary's returns 13 letterwinners from a team that tied the school record in wins with nine. SMC welcomes Adam Cooper to the helm. Cooper has been an assistant within the program the last five seasons. The Gaels boast All-WCC First-Team selection Carlos Diaz and All-Region Third-Team selection Matthew Fitzgerald. In 2005, the duo combined to place their name on 20 of the Gaels' 28 goals. As a freshman, Diaz led the WCC with 11 assists and was sixth in points with 15 in just 17 appearances. Fitzgerald handed out six assists which ranked third in the conference and finished the season with eight points.
All-WCC honorable mention selection Alex Christlieb returns after recording 12 points on five goals and two assists in 17 starts in the back. All-WCC honorable mention selection Brian Mason also returns for his third season between the pipes for SMC. Mason led the WCC with 94 saves and 4.95 saves per game in 2005. His six shutouts rank him in a tie with Chris Beatty (1997) for the most shutouts in a single season and his nine wins are the most tallied in a single season by an SMC net-minder. In addition to the single-season record, Mason moved into sole possession of the career record with 11 shutouts overall and also holds onto the top mark in the career annals in goals against average with a 1.27 mark.
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.
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 Poll1. San Francisco - 32 (3)2. Santa Clara - 31 (3)3. San Diego - 28 (1)4. Loyola Marymount - 235(t). Portland - 125(t). Saint Mary's - 127. Gonzaga - 9(First place votes)