Tuesday, February 19

Young players progress in positions vacated by former stars Perk, Stephens

Freshman foward Ryan Hollingshead, who scored his second goal of the season on Sunday, narrowly avoids a slidetackle against UNLV. The freshmen, including Hollingshead, have been making a significant impact so far this season.

Freshman foward Ryan Hollingshead, who scored his second goal of the season on Sunday, narrowly avoids a slidetackle against UNLV. The freshmen, including Hollingshead, have been making a significant impact so far this season. Kimberly Lajcik

In the wake of the departure of Brian Perk and Michael Stephens, two of the UCLA men’s soccer team’s top players, the Bruins have displayed just how deep they really are.

While Perk and Stephens compete with the Under-20 U.S. National Team in Egypt, the No. 4 Bruins have been getting significant contributions from others across the board, especially from senior midfielder Kyle Nakazawa and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Brian Rowe, as well as the highly touted freshman class.

After scoring two goals on Sunday night against UNLV, Nakazawa was named National Player of the Week by College Soccer News and Top Drawer Soccer on Monday.

In Friday’s away game against San Diego, Nakazawa played a role in both of the Bruins’ goals, assisting on one and scoring another, the latter becoming the game-winner. Two days later, when the Bruins played host to UNLV, Nakazawa scored his third and fourth goals of the season in a 3-0 victory over the Runnin’ Rebels.

As for Rowe, the third-year sophomore has filled in nicely for Perk, allowing only two goals in three games, one of which was a penalty kick.

Rowe spent much of his first year backing up Perk and appeared in only two matches last season. In those two games, Rowe recorded a 3.22 GAA with one save.

Against San Diego, Rowe registered a career-high eight saves on 15 shots by the Toreros.

But coach Jorge Salcedo said that he and his assistants are less than surprised about their group’s performance during the absence of their two stars.

“We’re very confident in our entire group,” Salcedo said. “(Goalkeeper coach) Pat Seymour has done a good job helping Brian Rowe step in as well.”

An additional key to UCLA’s early-season success has been the immediate impact of the Bruins’ 11-member freshman class.

Freshman forward Chandler Hoffman, the Birmingham, Ala. native, is second on the team in both goals scored with two, and total points, with eight.

Also, freshman midfielder Ryan Hollingshead who has started in place of Stephens each of the past three games, is tied with fellow freshman Evan Raynr for fourth in total individual points with five.

Most recently, Hollingshead scored his second goal of the season against in the second half of Sunday’s match of UNLV.

“I’m not that surprised at their success,” Salcedo said. “We are all very confident in their abilities and knew during our recruiting process that they would be able to contribute right away.”

“A lot of it has to do with their mentality in training and in the preseason,” Salcedo continued. “The biggest difference between youth soccer and college soccer is being able to adapt to the speed of play in college, and they’ve been able to transition well. Ryan Hollingshead has had to step in for Michael Stephens and has had a big impact.”

Beginning the season No. 19 in the nation, the Bruins have been mechanically climbing their up the national rankings, recently cracking the top five.

Although a National Championship is always at the back of his mind, Salcedo is careful not to get too excited too early.

“National Championship, that’s the plan, but it’s a long season,” Salcedo said. “There are different segments of the season and it’s still early. We understand that we need to get better with each game. We’re excited about where we’re at but we are nowhere near where we want to be.”

The Bruins will begin Pac-10 play this weekend with road contests against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. on Friday, and then it’s off to Seattle to face Washington on Sunday.

With the Pac-10 among the toughest conferences in the NCAA, Salcedo feels this will be a crucial test for his young UCLA squad, but that the Bruins are looking forward to the challenge.

“The Pac-10 is a big challenge,” Salcedo said. “We have a tough weekend ahead of us, going to Corvallis and then traveling up to Seattle to play Washington less than 48 hours later. But we’re excited.”f

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