2008 Season Preview
Aug. 8, 2008
Coming off back-to-back Pac-10 Championship seasons, California seeks to continue its success in 2008. Ninth-year head coach Kevin Grimes looks to a veteran group of seniors to lead his Golden Bears.
Last season, Grimes' squad produced a 12-6-2 record and a 6-3-1 Pac-10 mark, which was good enough to claim the program's second straight conference crown. A seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance led to a double-overtime victory over UC Davis in the first round of the College Cup.
Cal lost four players from 2007 but retains a talented group of sophomores that was ranked the No. 16 freshman class by College Soccer News last year. Leading the way among the returners is standout junior goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who was an NSCAA first-team All-American and an All-Pac-10 first-team selection after playing in every minute of every game last season. Also returning is sophomore Andrew Wiedeman, a second-team All-Pac-10 selection. He was selected to the 2007 Soccer America All-Freshman first team.
'We are looking forward to the 2008 season,' Grimes said. 'The 2007 season had some great moments and great success. We hope to continue that momentum with our program and in particular in the 2008 season.'
Sophomores Andrew Wiedeman and Davis Paul lead the group of forwards in 2008. Last year, Wiedeman led the Bears in points (20), goals (7) and assists (6). Five of his seven goals were game winners, including the double-overtime tally against UC Davis in the NCAA Tournament. Paul headed in a double overtime game winner against Towson and scored in the season opener. Cal also looks forward to the return of junior Jacob Wilson, who sat our last season due to an injury. In 2006, Wilson played in every game, recorded four goals (two game winners) and 10 points. Providing depth to the frontline is sophomore Scot Van Buskirk, who competed in 19 of the 20 games in 2007. Added to the lineup this season is freshman Mike Munoz, who has shown he can find the back of net as he broke his high school record for most goals in a game with four during his junior campaign.
'Our forward line is creative and talented,' Grimes said. 'Andrew Wiedeman and Davis Paul had very good freshmen seasons. Scot Van Buskirk gave us quality minutes, as well. We're looking forward to getting Jacob Wilson back after his medical redshirt year.'
Two potent weapons the Bears have at midfielder are senior Pat Marion and sophomore Servando Carrasco. Marion had a good 2007 season, collecting six points on two goals and two assists. Carrasco had a strong freshman campaign, emerging as a potent member of Cal's lineup, starting 17 games.
Returning in 2008 will be sophomore Hector Jimenez, who redshirted last year, as well as seniors Michael Nieraeth and Ian Ebert, and sophomores Anthony Avalos and Demitrius Omphroy. Nieraeth appeared in 14 games, earning an assist on a game-winning goal. Omphroy notched a pair of assists on game-winning goals as he was involved in 13 games last year as a freshman. Ebert and Avalos each appeared in five contests as they round out the depth at the position.
'Our midfield has always been the strength of our team, particularly the depth,' Grimes said. 'We have plenty of players who can contribute this year. Pat Marion and Servando Carrasco both had good seasons for us last year. We're looking forward to getting Hector Jimenez back after his redshirt year. Anthony Avalos, Ian Ebert, Michael Nieraeth and Demitrius Omphroy all made great strides last year and could have breakout seasons in 2008.'
Debuting in the midfield this year will be freshman Ted Jones. The native of Tiburon has been the captain of his club team, Marin FC, for three years.
Senior Tyler Barry, a 2007 All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick, will anchor the defense this season that led the conference in nearly every defensive category in 2007. Helping Barry on the backline will be sophomore A.J. Soares and juniors Evan Sassano and Kyle Rice. Soares brings experience to the defense, having started every game a year ago. Along with Soares, Sassano and Rice have each emerged as key contributors to Cal's stingy defense.
Juniors Imaan Kerchgani and Josh Leon, and senior Chris Deal also join the core of defenders. Kerchgani recently switched from midfield to the backline, and it was a very successful change according to Grimes. Deal also recently switched from forward to defender. Leon returns after an injury-shortened season in 2007.Joining Cal's defense in 2008 is Kyle Lunt, who has the ability to play multiple positions.
'The adjustments we have made this past spring in our backline have turned out to be great ones,' Grimes said. 'With the presence of Tyler Barry, A.J. Soares, Evan Sassano and Kyle Rice, our back four hasn't missed a beat. Josh Brown, Chris Deal, Imaan Kerchgani and Josh Leon also look to make a significant contribution to the back four.'
Junior Stefan Frei is one of three keepers returning from 2007. Frei led the Pac-10 in shutouts (9), saves (91), save percentage (.850) and saves per game (4.55) a year ago.
Two returners will look to make a mark on this year's squad. Junior Patrick Fry begins his second year with the Bears after transferring from Cal State Los Angeles and redshirt freshman Jordan Bethke returns for his second year. Incoming freshman David Bingham will also contribute to the depth. Bingham, a native of Pleasanton, collected 13 shutouts and a .60 goals-against average as a high school senior.'Stefan Frei returns after an outstanding sophomore season,' Grimes said. 'Jordan Bethke and Patrick Fry add depth and experience. All four of our goalkeepers have great qualities in their games. This position has the most competition for playing time out of any other on the field.'
Grimes has compiled yet another challenging schedule in 2008, with Cal playing six teams (Washington, UCLA, SMU, Creighton, Maryland and Santa Clara) that reached the 2007 NCAA Tournament, three of which received first-round byes (Creighton, Santa Clara and Maryland).
Two of the Bears' opponents ended last season ranked in the top 10 of the NSCAA poll (No. 7 Santa Clara, No. 9 Creighton). Maryland also sported a final ranking of No. 15.
'Once again Cal is going to have a top 10 strength of schedule ranking,' Grimes said. 'Our players and coaches wouldn't want it any other way.'