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#17 Soccer Dons Open Season at #14 California Friday in WCC- Pac 10 Challenge

Aug. 21, 2006

The 17th ranked University of San Francisco men's soccer team will open its 2006 season visiting #14 California in the first round of the WCC-Pac 10 Challenge Friday, August 25th at 2:30 p.m.

The challenge, in its second year will also see Santa Clara playing at Stanford on Friday evening (7:00 p.m.). The event concludes Sunday with USF hosting Stanford and Santa Clara hosting Cal, both Sunday games at 7:00 p.m. Sunday's Stanford at USF will be USF's only home preconference game and its last home game until September 24th, when the Dons host Santa Clara.Team preview:The USF soccer team enters the 2006 season on a roll after winning back-to-back West Coast Conference titles for the first time since 1993-94. With seven starting position players returning, the Dons look poised to challenge for the league crown once again en route to their third straight NCAA Tournament berth.

San Francisco boasts an exceptional group of letter-winners, highlighted by senior forward Aaron Chandler, the 2004 WCC Player of the Year, junior Rob Valentino, the 2005 WCC Defender of the Year, three-year starter defender Kevin Long and 2005 All-WCC Second Team goalkeeper Geremy Uhl.

After the success of the last two seasons, San Francisco will not sneak up on anybody. The Dons were picked as the preseason favorite to win the 2006 WCC title, according to the league coaches and enter the campaign ranked in the top-25 by Soccer America (No. 17) and Soccer News (No. 22).

2005 In Review

USF got off to a rocky start to league action last season, but finished on a tear, going unbeaten it its last five WCC contests, while outscoring opponents 11-4 to secure its second straight title. Since 2004, San Francisco owns a 10-1-1 record during the second half against league foes and owns a 24-9 goals advantage. The Dons did it with outstanding defense and paced the league in fewest goals allowed (18) and goals against (0.81).

In order to win a third straight championship, the Dons must replace five seniors, including first team all-league defender Luis Aguilar, midfielders Cameron Kolovos and David Martin and defender Andy Almquist, who were key players last season. However, a superb recruiting class and the continued growth of the returning players will make this a team that has more talent and depth.

Last season, when the league title was on the line, the Dons went undefeated in their last six contests and pulled out the title on the season's final day.

"Last year, although we started league play slowly, we were determined to force someone to take the title from us," said Dons Head Coach Erik Visser. "We had the determination and tenacity to earn the most points we could an put ourselves in a position to win.

"It will be a great challenge for our team to try to win the title for the third straight season. Its only been done once before since round robin play began in 1988.

"I am very excited to see how far this team can go and what they can achieve."

Schedule

The Dons face another challenging schedule in 2006 after capturing back-to-back West Coast Conference titles and play seven matches against teams ranked in the preseason top-30.

San Francisco opens the season Friday, August 25 at No. 14 Cal before heading to Pennsylvania for the Penn State Tournament featuring the No. 5 Nittany Lions and No. 30 Ohio State beginning Friday, September 8 in College Park. The Dons then travel to Southern California for two more top-25 matches at No. 23 Cal State Northridge and No. 8 UCLA, beginning Friday September 15 in Northridge.

Once the demanding WCC slate begins, USF contends with ancient rival No. 26 Santa Clara. The Dons host the Broncos Sunday, September 24 in a 7:00 PM showdown at Negoesco Stadium. San Francisco concludes the season series against Santa Clara Friday, October 20 in a 7:00 PM match at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Goalkeepers

Over the past two years, no goalkeeper in the West Coast Conference has been more important to his team than senior Geremy Uhl. The 6-4 senior had a personal best 0.77 goals against average last season, including nine shutouts, five in WCC play. Uhl will be challenging former Portland goalkeeper Kasey Keller's record for WCC shutouts this season.

USF adds an outstanding goalkeeper into the picture this season in UCLA transfer Eric Conner, a former standout at Mission Viejo High School.Providing solid depth will be freshman redshirt Emerson DeOlivera and Jeff Leles, a transfer from Dominican.

Defenders

USF's outstanding defense was the core of the 2004 and 2005 WCC championship teams.

The Dons placed two defenders on the All-WCC first team last season, including WCC Defender of the Year Rob Valentino.

Also returning is senior Kevin Long, whose NCAA experience includes 55 starts at USF and who dominates both penalty boxes.

After a solid freshman year in which he started 10 games, center defender Kyle Schlumpf also returns. Visser is expecting an immediate contribution from redshirt junior Chris Rodd of Danville, who sat out last season after transferring from William and Mary.

Returnees Bryan Vancura and Jeff Russell, as well as freshman Tyler Ruthven will also battle for playing time.

Midfielders

"We have a very talented group in the midfield," Visser stated. "We have depth and versatility that should allow us to matchup well against any opponent."

The midfield returns starters Matt Languis, Brandon McDonald and Ben Dessard. "This is a very strong returning group with a lot of experience. Languis is coming off a solid campaign in which he scored four goals and added seven assists, McDonald is a dominating midfield player and Dessard adds finesse," added Visser.

Junior Adam Bergman last season provided a lot of energy off the bench, scored the team's only goal in an overtime win over UC Riverside and also tallied against California.

Daniel DeGeer, Robert Smith and Chris Martinez all saw action last season making significant contributions. Visser has an exciting newcomer in Jesse Henderson, a two-time NSCAA All-American from Michigan.

Forwards

Aaron Chandler has been the top forward in the West Coast Conference over the past two seasons. Despite the constantly tight marking that you would expect on a league's Most Valuable Player, he scored five goals in WCC play. The senior (currently with 13) is approaching the WCC record (16) for most career goals in league play. His combination of skill, speed and hard work make him tough to stop.

Junior Jordan Keyes, a lightning quick forward has helped set up his teammates for lots of goals, with nine assists over his first two seasons.

Coach Visser is looking forward to seeing his four freshman frontliners in action. "I think that Conor Chinn, Shea Whelan, Daniel O'Donnell and Andres Ponce as a group will make an impact on this team in the near future," he stated. Transfer Ardalan Attar will add creativity to the USF attack.

"The last two years are the foundation of where we want this program to go," concluded Visser. "We want to challenge for the conference title on a yearly basis and make a name for ourselves nationally."