Head Coach George Kuntz was candid when describing the success of the UC Irvine men’s soccer team last season, ‘[This last season] was the best season in the history of the men’s soccer program. We had three players drafted and four signed with Major League Soccer.’
Last season, the Anteaters finished second at the Big West Conference and were ranked in the top 25. At one point, they were No. 7 in the nation.
Although the Anteaters lost many key stars who played an integral part in last years success, they have many experienced players returning who are ready to step up.
‘We return All-Conference Big West Midfielder of the Year Matt Murphy, our top scorer in 2006. Additionally, we return several key players from last year’s squad: Brandon Foster, Kevin Santora, Rafael Macedo and Shane Westbrook,’ Kuntz said.
The Anteaters lost two of their top three scorers from last season in Hamilton and Evans, but the incoming recruiting class should address those needs. Coach Kuntz calls this class ‘potentially the best recruiting class in UCI soccer history.’
The class has 14 commitments thus far, and these guys can flat-out play. Highlighting the class are prolific goal-scorers Spencer Thomas and Amani Walker.
Thomas is a Co-Arizona State Player of the Year. He scored a whopping 84 goals and 54 assists in high school, 34 of which were scored in his senior year. He was the captain of his high school soccer team and first team All-State in his sophomore, junior and senior years. He has been in the Olympic Development Program since his freshman year and was Arizona Tribune Player of the Year in his senior year.
Spencer broke a number of high school soccer records in Arizona, many of which were held by former Anteater Brad Evans. ‘He’s an exciting player that will fit into our exciting offensive style,’ Kuntz said. ‘He has an amazing shot, and we feel he is going to contribute well in the program.’
Walker is a forward from Francis Parker High School in San Diego. Walker captained both his club and high school soccer teams to state championship victories. He was the Division IV Player of the Year last year, and Kuntz loves his explosive style of play and fun personality.
These two players have big shoes to fill, but they have the tools and experience to fit right into the college game.
Walker and Thomas are not the only impressive recruits for the Anteaters next season. Here are a few more players who will help the soccer program next season.
Brett Berman is from Westlake, California and played midfield for both his club and high school teams. In 2007, he won the Nomads and Dallas Cup tournaments. He is also a three-time South National Cup State Champion.
The player with the most exciting background in the class is Sebastian Garcia. Though he graduated from Calabasas High School, he played with Cruz Azul, a popular Mexican professional club in 2004. He was also part of the selective squad for the Real Madrid Development program in Mexico.
What Kuntz loves most about Garcia is his passion for the game. ‘He has the passion for soccer that you only find in foreign countries,’ Kuntz said. ‘He lives, breathes and enjoys the sport. He holds an enthusiasm that I hope his teammates will pick up here.’
When looking at Brett Faggioni’s soccer resume, one can think of one word to describe him: leadership. He was the captain for his ODP team, which won the Arizona State Regional Championship Tournament in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He was also ranked first in his high school class with a 4.0 GPA.
These are only a few of the 14 impressive recruits from the loaded 2007 class. You can check out the biographies of the rest of the class at www.ucirvinesports.com.
The UCI men’s soccer team was insulted by the NCAA selection committee by being left out of the playoffs last year. This year’s squad is out to make a statement and capture the Big West Title.
Coach Kuntz has addressed the team’s needs in the off-season. He hopes a team that looks good on paper can translate on the field. If all goes well, next year’s games at Anteater Stadium will not be ones to miss.