MSUB media release
BILLINGS – The highly-anticipated season-opener has arrived for the Montana State University Billings men’s soccer team, as the Yellowjackets will kick off the 2016 campaign this week in California.
“I am excited about our first two matches this week and I know the guys are as well,” said MSUB head coach Alex Balog. “We finished off the preseason with a 7-1 win and I hope that is going to carry us into the game against Cal Poly Pomona with a lot of confidence.”
The first match for the ‘Jackets, who were picked to finish third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll, will be an immediate test against 2015 NCAA Division II national runner-up Cal Poly Pomona. Facing an opponent that is ranked No. 4 in the National Soccer Coaches’ Association of America, kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. Mountain time on Thursday at Kellogg Field on the CPP campus.
MSUB will then jaunt 30 miles east to Cal State San Bernardino, facing another west-region opponent from the California Collegiate Athletic Association on Saturday. Kickoff time against the Coyotes is set for 5 p.m. Mountain time at Premier Field, with live statistics available throughout the match.
The ’Jackets are coming off of a fourth-place finish in the GNAC a season ago, finishing the year with a mark of 8-6-4 overall and 6-5-3 in league play. The matches this week are the first of six non-conference games to be played, before MSUB opens its 12-game GNAC schedule on the road at Northwest Nazarene University on Sept. 22.
“We have a collective dream this season, and that is to take this program to a place it has never been before,” Balog said. “These first games this week are going to show us early on whether or not we are ready for that challenge. We know where we want to go as a group.”
Though the ‘Jackets got off to a slow start with just one goal in losing their first two preseason exhibition matches, the team broke out of its offensive slump with a 7-1 triumph last Saturday over Northwest College. Ten different players had a goal or an assist in the statement victory, as the team showed a promising indication of gelling together after two weeks of preseason workouts.
Leading the charge was junior Ricardo Palomino, who picked up where he left off as last season’s NCAA Division II west region leader in scoring with four goals against the Trappers. The scoring spree occurred exactly one year after he broke the ice with a four-goal effort against NWC on Aug. 27, 2015 in his first year with the ‘Jackets.
Palomino was assisted by four different players in Saturday’s match, as the ‘Jackets created chances left and right for the full 90 minutes.
Seniors Tom Saltwell and Julien Dragomir each had a goal, while freshman Ian Bream found the back of the net as well on an assist from Alexis Chavez. “That (assist) felt really good for me being a new guy,” said Chavez, a junior in his first year with the Yellowjackets. “We played really well, and I felt like we did what we practiced in that game. We did a lot of work on runs, and the team really put that into play.”
Last year’s top assist man for MSUB, Julian Toenges, highlighted the stat sheet with a pair of assists to kick off his senior campaign. “Offensively it was a really good game from us, and we connected well,” said Toenges, whose 10 assists in 2015 ranked second in the GNAC. “I definitely want to improve this season, and hopefully some of the younger players can learn from us (seniors) during practice and in games.”
The Yellowjackets led the GNAC with 35 goals a season ago, 27 of which were scored by players returning to the roster this fall.
Thursday, September 1 – at No. 4 Cal Poly Pomona – 5:30 PM MTN Time
Kellogg Field – Pomona, CA – Live Video – Live Stats
2016 Record: 0-0
Head Coach: Yossi Raz, 4th season
2015 Record: 17-3-3, 8-2-2 CCAA (NCAA Division II National Runner-Up)
After advancing to the national title game last season, CPP gets set to begin another deep run into the postseason with a No. 4 national ranking to start the year.
Returning only two of its top-eight goal scorers from a season ago, the Broncos will look to fill the void of 13 goals scored by Christian Gonzalez Diaz in 2015. CPP does welcome back Sergi Monso, who found the net five times and added four assists in 23 matches as a sophomore.
Outscoring opponents nearly 2-1 on average throughout the year, the Broncos have a strong core returning defensively and are headed by senior Rubik Zazian. Starting 19 of 22 matches in 2015, Zazian was a key component within a back line that posted eight shutouts. Also back from the defensive unit is sophomore Nadeer Ghantous, who started 18 matches and ranked sixth on the team with 1,691 minutes played as a freshman.
The Broncos will also need to replace Fernando Pablo Quevedo in goal, as he started 18 matches and had seven of the team’s shutouts with a goals-against average of just 0.75. Junior Jason Trejos is the lone returner with experience in goal, having started four matches and notched a goals-against average of 1.03.
Overall the Broncos were the third-leading offense in the CCAA, while ranking fifth in goals allowed in 2015.
The Series: This will be the second meeting between the programs, with MSUB winning the only other contest between the two 2-0 on Sept. 4, 2009 in California.
Last Time Out: MSUB Hall of Famer Sam Charles found the net twice in the first-ever match between the teams, receiving assists from Chris Andre and Tyler Moriarty to help the ‘Jackets start the campaign with a 3-1 record.
Saturday, September 3 – at Cal State San Bernardino – 5 PM MTN Time
Premier Field – San Bernardino, CA – Live Stats
2016 Record: 0-0
Head Coach: Darren Leslie, 1st season (Interim)
2015 Record: 4-9-3, 2-7-3 CCAA
The Coyotes will begin their season on Thursday against GNAC opponent Simon Fraser University, before challenging the Yellowjackets on Saturday.
CSUSB returns its top scorer from a season ago, Tony Lo, who notched five goals and an assist as a sophomore in 2015. Senior Luca Falcone is also back for the Coyotes, having scored four times and chipped in three assists in seven starts last year.
Erik Gustafsson is the lone returner with significance defensively for the team, and he started 11 matches and played in 16 last season. Mike Warn is the team’s returning goalkeeper with experience, starting seven matches and holding a goals-against average of 1.52 with one shutout last year.
As a team CSUSB ranked 10th in the CCAA in scoring with 19 goals, and in goals allowed with 25.
The Series: Saturday’s meeting between the ‘Jackets and Coyotes will be the first-ever between the programs.