Success in soccer, just like any other team sport, comes down to a simple formula. Score as many points as possible, while keeping the opponent from doing the same thing.
The Grand Canyon University men’s soccer team had the system down pat this year.
The Antelopes used the No. 1 offensive weapon in the nation to get their goals and points, and the conference’s best goalie to keep the other teams’ ball out of the net.
The result is a 15-win season – third best in school history – and a final Division II ranking as the No. 3 team in the nation in scoring offense and No. 8 in total goals (57).
Pinnacle High School graduate, Kyle Ciliento, led the offensive charge again this year. The sophomore repeated as Pacific West Conference Player of the Year, and his 27 goals give him a total of 50 for his young career.
On that schedule, he will become the school’s all-time career scoring leader early next season, and could set a mark that will stand for a long time. The GCU record is 55, set a decade ago.
While at Pinnacle High, he set state records for career goals (160) and assists (88), and also set a single-season state record of 60 goals.
Ciliento finished the 2010 season ranked No. 1 in the nation in total goals, with 27, and goals per game, at 1.35.
Meanwhile on the other end of the field, senior goalkeeper Ben Paneccasio led the PacWest this season in shutouts (10), set a school record of 22 shutouts, and was ranked 17th nationally in goals-against-average (0.73).
Peneccasio, a transfer from Tyler Junior College, was in net for all 18 games this year and also captured a second consecutive PacWest Goalkeeper of the Year award.
But Ciliento and Peneccasio had plenty of help this year, as is obvious by the awards bestowed by the National Soccer Coaches Association. GCU placed six players on NCAA D-II All-West Region teams.
That is more than any of the other 29 teams in the region.
Ciliento and junior defender, Nick Sykes, were named to the All-Pacific West Region first team, while Paneccasio picked up second-team honors.
Three more ‘Lopes players were included in the third-team picks: junior forward, Mitchell Garcia; senior midfielder, Joao Vieira; and junior midfielder, Cordero Young.
Garcia is another local product, playing at Agua Fria High School and then Phoenix College before landing at the west Phoenix university. More than a third of the GCU roster of 34 players is made up of graduates from Arizona high schools.
GCU head coach, Petar Draksin, was recognized for his team’s success by being named the Far West Region Coach of the Year. Draksin has been the school’s head coach for 18 years and won the award one other time, when he guided the Antelopes to the national championship in 1996.
He feels the selection of six of his players to the All-Region team also says something about the way the program is viewed by other schools.
“We can only nominate our players; our opponents’ coaches have to vote,” Draksin points out. “So, when you get six young men… it shows the level of respect the coaches have for our program and our players.
“Getting excellent talent into your program is one part of the battle, but while they’re here, they still have a job to do – perform to the best of their ability in the classroom and on the soccer field. These young men have done just that.”
And even better for Draksin, many of these players will be back next year. Only two of the six All-Region selections will graduate this year.
And Ciliento has two more years to play. Life is good.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)