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Aug. 16, 2006

IRIVING, Texas —The South Carolina men’s soccer team was picked to finish second by the Conference USA coaches, senior forward Mike Sambursky (Katy, Texas) earned Preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors the league office announced on Wednesday. Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Gustavson (Aiken, S.C.) joined Sambursky on the 11-man Preseason All-Conference Team.

SMU, the 2005 regular season champ and an NCAA College Cup participant, is the coaches’ predicted winner for 2006. UAB was selected as the third-place finisher, followed by Tulsa in fourth.

“Our players have worked hard in the preseason and we’re looking forward to our second year and the challenges of competing in Conference USA,” Gamecock head coach Mark Berson said. “The choice of SMU as the top pick was probably unanimous. I felt they were the top team coming into this season, particularly after their run (to the Final Four) in the postseason (last year). I think the rest of the conference is tightly packed. Any team can win on any given day. We’re gratified to be selected second. This is based on last year’s results and the fact that we achieved some success. As individuals and as a team, we have to go out and prove it.”

South Carolina is ranked No. 24 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Preseason Poll. In addition to winning the Conference USA Tournament Championship, the Gamecocks placed second in the 2005 regular season standings. Carolina finished with a 7-1-1 regular season record against Conference USA opponents and was the lone league team to go undefeated on the road.

Sambursky led South Carolina in scoring last season, racking up 24 points on a team-high eight goals, including four game winners, and eight assists. He was voted a first-team all-Conference USA selection and made the All-South Region first team. Sambursky was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of Week for his performance in wins over Florida International and UCF. He scored the game-winning goal in Carolina’s 1-0 victory over Tulsa in the Conference USA Tournament final.

“We’re very pleased that Mike Sambursky has been recognized as the Conference USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year,” Berson said. “I think he’s very deserving of the honor. He’s one of the most exciting attacking players in Conference USA and the Southeast.”

Gustavson, the reigning Conference USA Freshman of Year, made the all-Conference USA second team in 2005. He played every minute (1,970:54) in goal for the Gamecocks last season and registered a 1.19 goals-against average. Gustavson also set at USC freshman record with 88 saves. His 0.98 goals-against average in conference play ranks second among league netminders.

“Mike Gustavson improved throughout his freshman season and now looks to follow his Conference USA Freshman of the Year performance,” Berson said. “He has made two appearances with United States Under-20 squad this summer and gained a lot of experience. We’re very pleased for Mike. He’s also deserving.”

“It’s a great feeling to be part of first class soccer league like Conference USA,” Berson added. “We have quality coaches and programs across the board. Our program is pleased to be associated with programs and institutions like these.”

The Gamecocks are in the midst of preseason training camp leading up to the season opener against Clemson on Friday, Aug. 25, in Columbia.


Mike Sambursky, Sr., F, South Carolina (Katy, Texas)

Jay Needham, Sr., D/MF, SMU (Fort Worth, Texas)

Michael D’Agostino, Jr., MF, Kentucky (Langley, British Columbia)
Karim Boukhemis, Sr. F/MF, Marshall (Huntington, W.Va.)
Mynor Gonzalez, Sr., D, SMU (Guatemala City, Guatemala)
Bruno Guarda, So., MF, SMU (Cedar Hill, Texas)
Jay Needham, Sr., D/MF, SMU (Fort Worth, Texas)
Mike Gustavson, So., GK, South Carolina (Aiken, S.C.)
Mike Sambursky, Sr., F, South Carolina (Katy, Texas)

Eric Burkholder, Jr., MF, Tulsa (Broken Arrow, Okla.)
Sandy Gbandi, Sr., MF, UAB (Houston, Texas)
Dejan Jakovic, So., D, UAB (Etobicoke, Ontario)
Jerson Monteiro, Sr., F, UAB (Houston, Texas)

1. SMU
2. South Carolina
3. UAB
4. Tulsa