No. 15 Men's Soccer Opens Season With Olitsky Memorial Tournament in South Carolina

Charlie Miller (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Charlie Miller (Photo by Tony Mastres)

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• The Schedule
Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.
No. 15 UC Santa Barbara at College of Charleston
at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C.
Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic Tournament
Overall record vs. the Cougars: N/A
Last meeting: N/A

Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 at 12 p.m.
No. 15 UC Santa Barbara vs. Furman (neutral)
at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C.
Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic Tournament
Overall record vs. the Paladins: N/A
Last meeting: N/A

• The Week in Review
UC Santa Barbara kicked off the 2014 season by besting crosstown rival Westmont 2-0 in the annual Bryant & Sons Cup exhibition match on Saturday,  Aug. 23. Senior forward Reed McKenna was the star against the Warriors, scoring the opening goal and then assisting on the second. The three-point night matched his entire 2013 scoring output. UCSB outshot Westmont 13-5 on the night (7-0 in shots on goal), extending the team's winning streak against the Warriors to 14. McKenna's first goal came in the 13th minute after he banged home a rebound after Westmont keeper Josh Glover made an initial save on the UCSB forward's strike. Sophomore midfielder Drew Murphy got his head on a 25th minute McKenna corner kick to put UCSB up 2-0.

• Moving Out of State
Despite playing in just 22 out-of-state regular season away games during Tim Vom Steeg's tenure, the Gauchos have thrived in such contests, especially recently. Since the conclusion of the 2008 season, UCSB has gone 10-0-1 in those games, including marquee triumphs over Duke in 2011 and Northwestern in 2013. Overall, Vom Steeg has led his squad to a 15-6-1 regular season record in out-of-state matches.

• Opening Act
The Gauchos have gone 12-2-2 during Tim Vom Steeg's tenure in season openers. In the past eight years, they have lost just one of their openers, an overtime loss to Cal State Bakersfield in 2010. UCSB has won its past three openers (at Northwestern, at LMU, vs. Seattle), scoring three goals in each contest and outscoring the opposition 9-2 overall.

• 2013 in Brief
UCSB recorded a 12-6-3 overall record in 2013, going 8-2-3 in the final 13 games of the season after opening the year with a 4-4 mark. The Gauchos hit their stride in conference play, going an undefeated 7-0-3 en route to the Big West North Division crown. Ranked as high as No. 3 in the RPI over the course of the season, the Gauchos received a No. 10 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, but were dispatched by Penn State in the second round in a 1-0 loss that featured a controversial sixth-minute red card to then-senior midfielder Fifi Baiden.

• Checking the Polls
The Gauchos have been ranked in each of the major national preseason polls that have been released as of today, coming in as high as No. 15 (College Soccer News). Elsewhere, they check in at No. 18 (NSCAA, Soccer Times) and No. 23 (College Sports Madness, Top Drawer Soccer).

• Can't Touch This
With an undefeated 7-0-3 conference mark a season ago, the Gauchos became the second team to go without a loss in Big West play since the league reinsituted men's soccer in 2001. The only other team to accomplish the feat was also UCSB (2002).

• Filling the House
After drawing just under 50,000 fans into Harder Stadium last season, the Gauchos have now led the nation in attendance for seven consecutive years dating back to 2007. Overall, UCSB has four of the five highest on-campus regular season draws in NCAA history, including a record 15,896 against UCLA on Sep. 24, 2010. UCSB-Cal Poly games have been an especially large draw, as last year's Cal Poly matchup at Harder Stadium saw 12,805 fans go through the Harder Stadium turnstiles, the most of any NCAA match in 2013. With 11,075 fans showing up at the Spanos Center for the Blue-Green Rivalry game in each of the past three seasons, the five highest attended NCAA soccer matches over the last two years– including the NCAA Tournament – have been Gaucho-Mustang showdowns. Of the 14 highest attended regular season, on-campus games in NCAA history, nine are UCSB-Cal Poly games and 13 are games featuring the Gauchos.

• Big West Respect
UCSB was a unanimous selection to win the Big West North Division in the annual Preseason Big West Coaches Poll, which was released last week. Receiving all eight first place votes, the Gauchos have now been picked to win the conference in 13 consecutive seasons (North Division since '12).

• Jome Racks Up Off-Season Accolades
UCSB sophomore midfielder Ismaila Jome picked up a number of awards ahead of the 2014 season, headlined by his inclusion on the 32-man MAC Hermann Award Watch List, the most prestigious individual award in collegiate soccer. He was also named a Preseason All-American by both College Soccer News and College Sports Madness and was named to the 11-man Preseason All-Big West Team, one of just two sophomores to be included. Jome is the reigning Big West Freshman of the Year and was the first conference freshman to receive All-Region honors since the league reinstituted men's soccer in 2001. He was a central figure in Saturday's win against Westmont, providing the through ball that led to McKenna's goal (he lost the assist when the Warriors keeper made the initial save before McKenna followed up on the rebound) and earning the corner kick that led to Drew Murphy's goal.

• Five Gauchos Earn Preseason All-Conference Honors from CSM
Headlined by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Josh McNeely, five Gauchos were named to the College Sports Madness Preseason All-Big West Team earlier this month. McNeely was joined by Jome on the First Team, while forward Charlie Miller and midfielders Drew Murphy and Nick DePuy were Second Team selections.

• Freshmen Make Their Big Debut
Fielding what is considered to be the No. 8 freshman recruiting class in the nation (according to Top Drawer Soccer), UCSB saw a number of first-year players make their debuts on Saturday night. Midfielder Ryo Fujii and center back Jeff Quezada earned starts in the contest, with forward Denis Kalamar the first to appear off the bench. Goalkeeper Brandon Berke, right back Dugan Zier, midfielder Axel Mendez, and forward Alex Liua all made their first apperances as Gauchos as well. Quezada and Mendez were the biggest difference-makers, the former playing the entire 90 minutes while helping the team to a clean sheet and the latter setting up a number of chances for his teammates in the second half.

• Lofty Goals
In the 2014 season, the UCSB men's soccer program will try to maintain a number of impressive streaks. The Gauchos will be looking to lead the nation in attendance for the eighth consecutive season, record 10 or more wins for the 14th straight season, and reach the postseason for the 12th time in 13 years.