“I think we started out with a false sense of security and the chemistry was pretty good,” Kuntz said. “Then we hit a couple of speed bumps with some adversity from within and some adversity during games and we did not deal with it well.”
Kuntz, whose 14th season begins with a home exhibition game against Division II Cal State San Bernardino Sunday at 7:30 p.m., said he expects 2008 to go much better.
“It’s a totally different team this year,” said Kuntz, who has encouraged his players to forget last season, which included a last-place finish in the seven-team Big West Conference. “Last year, we only had three seniors and only one of those started [defender Brandon Foster]. This year, we have seven seniors, who make up a much stronger core.”
UCI is picked to finish fifth in the preseason conference coaches poll, which identifies UCSB as the favorite to earn its sixth straight Big West crown.
The returners, including midfielder Matt Murphy and defender David Sias, both second-team all-conference honorees a year ago, produced all but one goal and three assists from last year’s team total.
Murphy, the Anteaters’ leading scorer the last two years (he was Big West Midfielder of the Year as a sophomore), produced nine goals and two assists, more than doubling the point total of the second-most productive UCI scorer in 2007.
Murphy enters this season ranked sixth in UCI career annals in points (55) and goals (22), and his seven game-winning goals have been bettered by only two players in the program’s history.