[BIG WEST: Men]UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge are favored to win the Big West division championships in 2013.
UC Santa Barbara collected five first-place votes for a total of 25 points, narrowly edging out UC Davis for the North Division top spot.
Last year’s South Division champion Cal State Northridge earned the necessary votes to fill the favorite’s role again for 2013. The Matadors received six first-place votes and 30 points overall to outdistance UC Irvine, which came in second place with a first-place vote and 21 points overall.
CoachTim Vom Steeg’s Gauchos return seven starters from a 2012 team that posted a 10-6-3 overall record. UCSB will be led by seniors Achille Campion and Peter Schmetz. Campion scored six goals in seven starts but missed 12 games last year due to injury. Schmetz, a 6-foot-6 anchor of the Gaucho backline, saw injuries limit him to eight starts. Last year's top UCSB freshman, Ema Boateng, has turned pro and joined Sweden's Helsingborg.
The top three goal scorers return. Junior Sagi Lev-Ari topped the Big West with 15 goals, while junior Edwin Rivas and senior Beto Velasquez each netted eight goals. In addition, the Matadors return 2012 Big West assist leader Carlos Benavides to the lineup.
Cal State Northridge led all squads with three selections (Benavides, Lev-Ari, Rivas) on the 11-player preseason all-conference team.
UC Irvine (Marco Franco, Cameron Iwasa) and UC Santa Barbara (Baiden, Campion) had two apiece. Cal Poly’s Mackenzie Pridham, Cal State Fullerton juniorIan Ramos, Sacramento State senior Isaac Ikyurav and UC Riverside senior Aaron Long also were recognized on the list.