Aug. 6, 2007
SAN BRUNO, CA - The Santa Clara men's soccer team was selected as the preseason favorite to capture its second straight West Coast Conference title, edging out Bay Area rival San Francisco for the first place spot in the 2007 WCC preseason coaches poll. The Broncos received five first place votes and tallied 35 overall points, while the Dons garnered the remaining two first place votes and received 28 overall points. San Diego was picked to finish third with 20 points, while Loyola Marymount and Portland each received 19 points to tie for the No. 4 spot. Gonzaga finished just one point shy of the fourth spot with 18 points, and Saint Mary's rounded out the poll at No. 7 with eight points.
Santa Clara, which captured its ninth WCC title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals last season, brings back eight starters and 19 letterwinners from the 2006 campaign. Sophomore Stephen McCarthy, the 2006 WCC Co-Freshman of the Year, returns for the Broncos and will be joined in the midfield by senior Peter Lowry, who earned second team All-WCC honors after tying for the team lead with six goals a year ago. WCC Coach of the Year Cameron Rast also returns junior goalkeeper Joseph Buttitta, the conference leader with nine shutouts in 2006.
San Francisco, picked to finish second, earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season last year after going 12-7-1 and 7-5-0 in WCC contests. The Dons return seven starters including senior defender Rob Valentino, who was tabbed for WCC Player of the Year honors after anchoring a USF defense that surrendered a conference-low 18 goals last season. Senior forward Ardalan Attar, who ranked second on the squad with five goals in 2006, will help pace the San Francisco attack.
San Diego was picked third after leading the WCC with 47 goals last season and tying a conference record with 22 goals against league opponents. USD's returning group is headlined by midfielder Dustin Guerrero, who tallied four goals and three assists last year, and All-WCC honorable mention defenders Tim Grey and Sam Reeder.
Loyola Marymount and Portland tied for fourth place in the preseason poll, and both programs have their sites set on a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. First team All-WCC midfielder Nick Blanco returns for his senior season after scoring a pair of goals and assisting on four additional scores last year, and junior Brad Stisser returns in the LMU attack after tying for the team lead with four goals in 2006. The Pilots will field one of the most experienced units in the conference as 23 letterwinners and nine starters return to Head Coach Bill Irwin's squad. A pair of All-WCC forwards in junior Alex Elliott and senior Christopher Sanders look to provide the scoring punch for Portland, as the duo combined to score 16 of UP's 28 team goals last season.
Gonzaga checked in at No. 6 after finishing third in the WCC standings last year, the highest finish for a GU squad since 2001. The Zags will be led by senior forward George Josten, who led the conference in goals for the second straight season with 12 scoring strikes in 2006.
Saint Mary's rounds out the poll at No. 7 despite the return of second team All-WCC selection Dylan Leslie, who tied for the team lead with four goals last season.
2007 Men's Soccer Preseason Poll
1. Santa Clara - 35 (5)
2. San Francisco - 28 (2)
3. San Diego - 20
4(t). Loyola Marymount - 19
4(t). Portland - 19
6. Gonzaga - 18
7. Saint Mary's - 8
(First place votes)