August 23, 2012

Men's Soccer Welcomes Three Teams for Wilson Titan Classic

2011 Bobby Reiss
Cal State Fullerton senior captain Bobby Reiss and the Titans open play this weekend at their own Wilson Titan Classic at Titan Stadium. (Photo by Matt Brown)

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KICK OFF: The Cal State Fullerton men's soccer team finally gets the chance to take the field this weekend as the Titans (7-7-5 overall, 1-6-3 in the Big West Conference in 2011) welcome three teams to Titan Stadium for the two-day Wilson Titan Classic. Fullerton opens tournament play on Friday night (Aug. 24) at 7 p.m. against American University before taking on the University of Portland on Sunday (Aug. 26) at 2 p.m. Big West Conference rival Cal State Northridge is the third visiting team in the group.

TOURNEY SCHEDULE: The complete schedule for the Wilson Titan Classic is as follows:

Friday (Aug. 24):
Cal State Northridge (H) vs. Portland, 4:30 pm
American at Cal State Fullerton, 7 pm

Sunday (Aug. 26):
Cal State Northridge (H) vs. American, 11:30 am
Portland at Cal State Fullerton, 2 pm

IN THE POLLS: None of the teams in this weekend's tournament are ranked in the latest polls.

BE A FOLLOWER: Fans can keep up with the latest in Titans athletics by following us on Facebook (CSUF.Athletics) and Twitter (@FullertonTitans).

"CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?": Thanks to a partnership with Arizona-based Stretch Internet, Cal State Fullerton's home matches, as well as selected road contests, can be heard live over the Internet at FullertonTitans.com. To access the links, click on the headphones icon in the upper right-hand corner of the newly redesigned FullertonTitans.com and enjoy the action.

"CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?": For the fifth consecutive year, institutions will air select matches on BigWest.TV, including all Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara contests. For the 2012 season, all BigWest.TV events will air free of charge. Head to http://www.bigwest.org/thisweek for weekly event schedules. BigWest.TV brings together live and on-demand video from each of the Big West's ten member institutions. Now in its eighth year, BigWest.TV covers Big West sports, press conferences, interviews and features, including every home and conference contest in women's volleyball as well as men's and women's basketball. Also covered are select contests in women's soccer, baseball, softball and Big West Conference Championships.

I NEED STATS, STAT!: Barring technical difficulties, live stats will be available for all four of this weekend's tournament matches. Visit the men's soccer page on FullertonTitans.com to access the links.

STRAIGHT FROM THE COACH'S MOUTH: Listen as Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Bob Ammann previews his side's 2012 season in stunning HD via the lens of team videographer, Matt Brown. Access the interview at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m5Vkl2d0O0&feature=player_embedded

WELL, THIS IS NEW: The Big West Conference expands to eight teams and two divisions for the 2012 men's soccer season with the addition of associate member Sacramento State. The Hornets join Cal Poly, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara in the North Division while Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and Cal State Northridge form the South Division.

Each school will play a 10-game conference schedule – a home-and-home against the teams in its own division and one game against each of the teams in the opposite division.

The last time the league's men's soccer teams competed in divisions was 1984 when Fullerton, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, and UNLV comprised the South Division and Fresno State, San Jose State, UC Santa Barbara, and Pacific made up the North Division.

The winners of the league's two divisions along with the two second-place teams will face off in the 2012 Big West Conference Tournament. The North Division champion will take on the South Division's second-place team while the South Division champ will host the North's second-place squad in the semifinals on Nov. 7. The winners advance to the championship match at the home of the higher-seeded team on Nov. 10.

FOR STARTERS: Cal State Fullerton is 24-9-4 (.703) in season openers dating back to the 1975 season and is unbeaten in its last six such contests (5-0-1) since Head Coach Bob Ammann took the reins of the program in 2006... the Titans' last defeat in a season opener came in 2005 when they lost by a 7-0 score to Maryland at Titan Stadium... Fullerton is 14-5-3 (.705) when opening the season on its home pitch with victories in its last two such games over Hope International (1-0 in 2011) and Long Island (2-0 in 2007)... the Titans are also 7-2-1 when opening the season on the road and 3-2 in neutral site season openers.

"O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!": Senior defender Bobby Reiss was named team captain for the 2012 season.

AMERICAN BRIEFLY: The Eagles return seven starters and 15 letter winners off of last season's squad that finished 7-12-2 overall and 5-2 in the Patriot League to claim the conference's regular season championship before falling to Colgate in the league tournament championship match... senior Alassane Kane, who led the team in scoring a season ago with six goals and three assists, returns to pace the offense and lead a group of four first-team All-Patriot League returnees from 2011... junior Billy Knutsen is the only returner with experience in goal after the departure of starter Matt Makowski, posting a 0.88 goals against average and 11 saves in six appearances to go with a pair of shutouts.

HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH AMERICAN: Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series with American, 2-0, winning the last meeting between the two schools, 3-0, in Washington, D.C., last season on Sept. 16... the Titans also claimed a 4-2 win on a neutral field in 1996.

PORTLAND BRIEFLY: The Pilots return 16 letter winners and eight starters from last season's squad that finished 11-7-2 overall and 6-5-1 in the West Coast Conference... Portland is picked to finish third in the WCC according to the coach's preseason poll... Preseason all-conference pick Steven Evans returns to pace the offense after leading the conference with six goals and 17 points in 2011... junior goalkeeper Justin Baarts, who played every minute in goal for the Pilots a season ago, also returns after posting a 1.30 goals against average and 72 saves in 20 starts to go along with three shutouts.

HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH PORTLAND: The Pilots lead the all-time series with the Titans, 4-2-1, with Portland posting a 2-0 win in the last meeting on Sept. 21, 2008, at a tournament in Seattle... Fullerton's last win in the series came in 2003 in a, 3-2, overtime victory at Titan Stadium... the Titans are 1-0-1 against the Pilots at home, adding a scoreless draw in 1986 to their win in 2003.

TITANS PICKED FOURTH IN THE BIG WEST SOUTH, SEVENTH OVERALL: The Cal State Fullerton men's soccer team was picked to finish fourth in the newly formed Big West Conference South Division, and seventh overall, according to a vote of the league's coaches released by the conference office.

The Titans (7-7-5 overall, 1-6-3 in the Big West in 2011) received one first-place vote and 13 points overall to finish behind preseason favorite, No. 13 UC Irvine, the league's defending regular season and tournament champion. The Anteaters received six first-place nods and 29 points overall and were followed by Cal State Northridge (which received one first-place vote), UC Riverside, and Fullerton.

No. 11 UC Santa Barbara was a unanimous pick to win the North Division with eight first-place votes and 32 points overall, and was followed by UC Davis, Cal Poly, and Sacramento State.

A LOOK AT THE TITANS: Under the direction of seventh-year Head Coach Bob Ammann, the Titans return 12 letter winners and six starters off of last season's squad that finished 7-7-5 overall and 1-6-3 in the Big West Conference for seventh place. However, Fullerton will have to cope with the loss of its top three scorers from a year ago in All-Big West honorees Kevin Venegas (1st Team) and Oscar Aguero (2nd Team) as well as Nick Posthuma, who combined for 12 goals and 11 assists. Junior Ritchie Gonzalez and senior Jesse Escalante are the team's leading returning scorers, each posting a pair of goals and an assist in 2011 whlie senior Jameson Campbell added three assists to the offense a season ago.

TOUGH TRIO: Cal State Fullerton's 2012 schedule includes three teams that are either ranked of receiving votes to begin the season: CSU Bakersfield (receiving votes in the NSCAA poll), UC Santa Barbara (#4 by Soccer America, #11 by the NSCAA), and UC Irvine (#13 NSCAA, #25 Soccer America). All three teams also advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2011 with the Anteaters and Gauchos each receiving first-round byes. Bakersfield fell to Saint Mary's in the first round, while UCI (a #8 seed) was also eliminated by the Gaels in round two. UCSB, a #15 seed, defeated Providence, 3-2, in round two before falling to second-seeded and eventual national semifinalist Creighton, 2-1, in the third round.

PLAYING FOR KEEPERS: One would have to go all the way back to the 2007 to find a year without Trevor Whiddon in net, but that's the predicament that Head Coach Bob Ammann has on his hands for 2012 without the talented keeper. Whiddon had started all but one match over the last three seasons and was a part-time starter with Kevin Puder as a freshman in 2008, compiling a career 1.58 goals against average, 308 saves, and 12 shutouts in his four seasons as a Titan. Now, Ammann will look to a trio of keepers to fill those shoes in junior Bryan Escalante (3 career games played, 105 total minutes), redshirt freshman Adam Zepeda, and transfer Robbie Hannon, who played two seasons at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., helping the Fighting Knights to a runner-up finish at the Division II National Championships in 2011.

HOME, SWEET HOME:
The Titans won't be packing their bags very often in 2012, content to enjoy the friendly confines of Titan Stadium for the majority of the season. Cal State Fullerton will play 11 of its 20 matches at home this season, including four-straight to start the year beginning with this weekend's tournament. During non-conference play, the Titans' longest trip will be to Las Vegas (272 miles according to Google Maps) for a tournament on Sept. 14-16, and they will not leave the State of California for the rest of the year, with their longest trip a 400-mile drive to Sacramento to take on Sacramento State and UC Davis on Oct. 5 and 7, respectively.

CROSSING THE POND: Three of Cal State Fullerton's incoming class hail from England, continuing somewhat of a pipeline for Head Coach Bob Ammann in recent years. Freshmen Colin Okirie (Coventry) and Julian Okai (Essex) and junior transfer Robbie Hannon (Kent) join the Titans in 2012, bringing the number of English-born players to seven during Ammann's tenure as head coach and 12 international players (two from Germany and one each from Australia, Guatemala, and Scotland) overall since 2006.

BIGGER ISN'T NECESSARILY BETTER: Cal State Fullerton features 23 players on its roster for the 2012 season -- it's smallest roster since the 2007 season (23) and tied for the second-smallest in Head Coach Bob Ammann's previous six seasons (21 players in 2006).

MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH: Eight of Cal State Fullerton's 19 contests in 2011 were decided by a single goal as the Titans posted just a 3-5 mark in those contests. Of those five losses, four of those came in Big West Conference play, including a pair to UC Irvine, a 4-3 defeat at home to perennial power UC Santa Barbara, and a 2-1 loss to Cal State Northridge in the season finale. In addition, two other games could have gone Fullerton's way with a bounce here and there as both of the Titans' 1-1 draws with UC Riverside were forged with second-half Highlander goals -- including one with eight minutes to play in regulation on Oct. 15 at Titan Stadium.