No. 21 San Diego State On Tap For Ninth-Ranked UCSB Saturday
Aug. 30, 2006
This Week's Schedule
Saturday, September 2, 2006
No. 9 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. No. 21 San Diego State Aztecs
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
UCSB Opens With A Bang
The Gauchos looked very sharp in their 2006 opener, throttling No. 7 Akron 5-0 in the first match of last weekend's University of Virginia Soccer Classic. Junior forward Tino Nuñez got the Santa Barbara offense rolling, scoring his first goal since returning to the starting lineup following a redshirt year in 2004. Freshman forward Bongomi Otii picked up where he left off in the Gauchos' preseason exhibition match, finding the net twice in his regular season debut. Sophomore midfielder Eric Avila also bagged a pair of goals on four shots to round out the scoring for UCSB. Senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish recorded six saves and led a Gaucho defense that limited the Zips to just six shots in the match.
Virginia Takes Rematch, Soccer Classic Crown
The victory over Akron put UCSB in the tournament's title match against host Virginia. After the Gauchos and Cavaliers battled to a heated 0-0 overtime tie in last season's UCSB/adidas Classic, Sunday's match proved to be another war. The Gauchos, who were forced to play a man down for the entire second half, still managed to take an 11-2 edge in corner kicks but were unable to capitalize on their scoring opportunities. Cavalier goalkeeper Ryan Burke made two key saves late and Jeremy Barlow's goal just over a minute into the second half was the difference as Santa Barbara fell 1-0. The Gauchos were out-shot 10-8 in the match and only managed two shots on goal against the UVa defense.
Scouting the Aztecs
UCSB returns to Santa Barbara this weekend for its home opener against San Diego State. The Gauchos trail the all-time series with the Aztecs 17-10-3, but have won the four previous meetings. UCSB came out on top in San Diego in 2001 and 2004 and shutout the Aztecs 3-0 in 2002 in Santa Barbara. Last season the Gauchos defeated SDSU 2-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on goals by Ivan Becerra and Jonathan Davis in front of over 3,500 fans at Harder Stadium.
The Aztecs, ranked No. 21 in this week's College Soccer News Top 30, enter this weekend's match up with a 2-0-0 record after defeating Albany and Rutgers to claim their own Soccer Post/Aztec Classic title this past weekend. San Diego State's four goals have come from four different players this season.
Meet the Gauchos
Beginning with this weekend's game against San Diego State, selected UCSB players will be available for autographs following men's soccer home matches. Players such as two-time All-American Andy Iro, 2005 Big West Freshman of the Year Eric Avila, and senior co-captain Bryan Byrne will be at the Gaucho Team Shop located under the scoreboard to meet the fans. Schedule posters for signing can be purchased at the game for $1.
Home, Sweet Home
After posting a 1-1-0 mark in Virginia to start the season, the Gauchos now return to the friendly confines of Harder Stadium for their next four matches. In addition to San Diego State, the upcoming homestand includes match ups with Cal Poly, Illinois-Chicago and Loyola Marymount. Last season UCSB posted a 7-1-2 home record, with the only loss coming at the hands of No. 20 Cal in the first match of 2005. The Gauchos only fell once at home in 2004 as well, dropping a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to UC Irvine. Overall, Santa Barbara has gone 51-13-6 (.771) at Harder Stadium since Tim Vom Steeg took over before the 1999 season.
Climbing the Ranks
UCSB had a solid showing at last weekend's University of Virginia Soccer Classic and the team was rewarded for its performance in the national polls. After carrying a preseason national ranking of No. 21 into opening weekend, the Gauchos climbed up to No. 13 in this week's Soccer America Top 25 poll. They came in at No. 14 in the College Soccer News Top 30 National Poll and are all the way up to a tie for the No. 9 spot in the Soccer Times rankings. After earning a No. 22 preseason nod from the NSCAA, UCSB was unable to move up in that particular poll as the coaches' panel did not release rankings for this week. With a 5-0 win over No. 7 Akron and a 1-0 loss to No. 3 Virginia, Santa Barbara's strength of schedule looks pretty healthy so far in 2006.
You always want to start your season off on the right foot with a win, but UCSB's 5-0 dismantling of No. 7 Akron was an eye-opener for the college soccer world. Few people expected UCSB to defeat the Zips--a top 10 team with seven starters from last season's NCAA Quarterfinalist squad returning--so convincingly. The 5-0 win was Santa Barbara's largest margin of victory since they defeated Northwestern 6-1 September 9 at the 2005 UNLV adidas Classic. The Gauchos also posted a 5-0 lopsided victory over Duke in the 2004 College Cup before going on to lose the championship match to Indiana in penalty kicks. In all, UCSB has defeated an opponent by five goals or more seven times in the Vom Steeg era, with only three of those victories coming at Harder Stadium.
A Balanced Attack
Of UCSB's five goals this season, three were in the run of play and two came on penalty shots. Head coach Tim Vom Steeg has to like the fact that the three goals in the run of play were scored by three different players with three different guys picking up the assists. The Gauchos' first goal came in the ninth minute against Akron after sophomore midfielder Chris Pontius found a streaking Tino Nuñez, who scored from 18 yards out. Santa Barbara's second strike was a little more than 10 minutes later when senior midfielder Bryan Byrne connected with Eric Avila on a cross, setting up a rocket that bounced in off the left post. Sophomore forward Nick Perera recorded an assist on UCSB's third goal of the game after Bongomin Otii controlled the loose ball and found the net in the 32nd minute. With a number of guys that can score the ball and even more capable of setting the table, the Gaucho offense should continue to give opponents fits all season.
Preseason All-American and Hermann Trophy Candidate Andy Iro did what he does best in the two games against the Zips and Cavaliers: he was the centerpiece of an outstanding UCSB defense. In both games Iro anchored a Gaucho backline that featured sophomore Alfonso Motagalvan lining up on the right for the first time in his career at UCSB. Iro, Motagalvan, and senior Jeff Murphy limited No. 7 Akron to just six shots in Santa Barbara's 5-0 season-opening victory, helping senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish earn his 12th career complete game shutout. The trio took the field once again against Virginia and limited the third-ranked Cavaliers to just five shots on goal and a total of 10 for the match, in a losing effort. Despite playing a man down the entire second half, the defense rebounded after the UVa goal and kept the ball out of the Gauchos' backfield for the duration of the period, giving the offense a chance to get back in the game.
Avila Looks Good Early
Early indications suggest that Reigning Big West Freshman of the Year Eric Avila continues to improve his already spectacular game and should have a great year in 2006. The sophomore midfielder had an impressive game against Akron, taking four shots and scoring twice after netting a total of just three goals a year ago. Avila scored his first goal of the year in the 20th minute after collecting a cross from fellow midfielder Bryan Byrne and dribbling into the box. With his left foot, he fired a rocket off the left post and in. The San Diego native gave the Gauchos a 4-0 lead in the 48th minute, putting a PK in the left hand corner of the box. Avila also took one of just eight shots in the 1-0 loss to Virginia.
An Answer Up Front
Entering the 2006 season, it was not clear who was going to become a dominant scorer at the forward position for UCSB. Through two games, that question seems to have an answer. After electrifying Gaucho fans with three goals and an assist in a preseason exhibition match against Westmont College, freshman forward Bongomin Otii was just as impressive in his first regular season game sporting the blue and gold. The Denver native scored twice on four shots in UCSB's 5-0 thrashing of Akron. Otii's first goal as a Gaucho came in the 32nd minute when he quickly controlled a loose ball in the box and dribbled in from 18 yards out to beat the Zips' goalkeeper one on one for the score. He found the net again in the 67th minute, this time sending a ball past the diving keeper hard and low on Santa Barbara's second penalty kick of the game. The Gauchos, who have produced the Big West Conference Freshman of the Year three of the last four years, seem to have found another gem this season in Otii.
Junior forward Tino Nuñez made his first start in over a year for the Gauchos against Akron and was in the starting lineup two days later against Virginia. After redshirting the entire 2005 season to rehabilitate an injury, Nuñez made his presence felt immediately scoring UCSB's first goal of the year. The Long Beach, Calif. native collected a pass from Chris Pontius and shot from just beyond the 18-yard box, putting the ball past the Zips' keeper in the upper left hand corner. The goal was the first for Nuñez since October 13, 2004 at UC Riverside. The forward appeared in 23 matches for Santa Barbara two years ago, scoring two goals and recording six assists.