Aug 22, 2013
DAVIS, Calif. - Despite three first-place votes, the UC Davis men's soccer team was picked to finish second in the North Division in the Big West Preseason Coaches Poll, the league announced on Thursday.
The Aggies received three of the eight potential first-place votes and picked up 23 total points, but UC Santa Barbara narrowly edged them out with five first-place votes and 25 points. Cal Poly checked in third in the North Division with 21 points and Sacramento State was last with 11.
UC Davis claimed the program’s first Big West regular season title in 2012 as they bested their North Division competition with a 7-3 conference record. The Aggies bring back nine starters from the side that reached the championship match of the Big West Tournament. A trio of senior all-conference performers helped trigger that success last season, as midfielder Kevin Schulte (second team), goaltender Omar Zeenni (second team) and defender Alex Henry (honorable mention) return to the pitch this season.
The Aggies, under head coach Dwayne Shaffer in his 17th season, bring back all four starting defenders in front of Zeenni, who posted the best goals against average in the Big West (0.90) in conference games. Junior center back Brian Ford, who was a third-team all-West Region selection last year, is joined on the back line by Ramon Martin Del Campo, Henry and sophomore Ryan Gross. The Aggies return 19 of their 23 goals scored last season and bring back all 18 of their assists as an experienced roster looks to repeat as North Division champions.
In the South Division, defending Big West Tournament champion Cal State Northridge came in first with six first-place votes and a league-high 30 points. UC Irvine was picked to finish second with one first-place vote and 21 total points. Cal State Fullerton also picked up a first-place vote but came in third with 16 points and UC Riverside was last with 13 points.
The coaches also picked an 11-man preseason all-Big West roster, but the Aggies were not represented. Cal State Northridge had three players picked, while UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine each had two. Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Sacramento State and UC Riverside all had one.
The Aggies start the 2013 campaign at 5 p.m. on Sunday at Aggie Soccer Field with an exhibition game against Chico State. The regular season kicks off on Aug. 30 at Portland while UC Davis' first Big West game of the season is on Oct. 4 at home against UC Irvine.