Ryan Chartrand

The Cal Poly men’s soccer team will kick off their 2007 season on Aug. 21 in an exhibition match against the nationally ranked NCAA playoff team California. The game is especially significant because it will mark one of the first athletic events to take place in the newly renovated Spanos Stadium and will host a youth soccer kickoff celebration.

Last year’s team, one of the youngest in the nation, with 22 freshmen, finished at 7-8-4, which brought them close to the Big West Championship and set the record for lowest goals allowed by a Cal Poly team in history. This year head coach Paul Holocher expects his team to compete fiercely throughout the season for the Big West Title.

“We are young, very hungry and motivated, which will lead to an exciting season,” Holocher said.

With a tough schedule coming up and the Big West Conference now ranked No. 5 out of 32 conferences in the country, Holocher’s main priority will be to win games in the conference, leading the way to the NCAA playoffs.

Along with several returning players, this year will be the first with a fully recruited team from all over the country. Holocher said he expects to have around 14 new players that have all been “selected and evaluated as players with the character, ambition and ability to help Poly become one of the best soccer programs in the nation.”

While this year’s team is built on youth and incoming prospects, seasoned players will be extremely valuable, as well as familiar faces for soccer fans. Returners include goalkeeper Eric Branagan-Franco, defender and midfielder K.J. Lenihan, midfielders Anton Peterlin and Jose Garcia and forward Jeff Meyer.

Improved team speed and athletic ability will prove useful this year, however, “talent without direction or commitment means little,” Holocher said. “What is important is that we have committed players who also happen to be talented and intelligent soccer players.”

He is encouraging his attacking players to “play creatively and fearlessly” to create an “effective and entertaining attacking and passing game.

The Big West Conference games are predicted to be highly competitive, entertaining matches and enthusiasm from the Cal Poly student body will be a big part of the upcoming season.

The Cal Poly men’s soccer program has a goal of being the most highly attended and supported soccer program in the nation. They have set the game against Big West rival and NCAA champion UC Santa Barbara as “Break the Record Night,” expecting more than 5,000 fans. The match will be Oct 17.

Games are free to students and the schedule can be found at gopoly.com.

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