This Week's Schedule
at the UNLV adidas Classic
Friday, September 9th 4:30 p.m.
No. 13 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 15 Northwestern
Sunday, September 11th 2:30 p.m.
No. 13 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 23 Portland
Starting Another One
Friday's match against Cal broke a streak of six straight seasons without an opening-game loss, giving head coach Tim Vom Steeg his first ever at the helm of the Gauchos. It also snapped UCSB's stretch of six straight regular season tournament titles won under Vom Steeg as Santa Barbara went on to finish third with its 0-1-1 record. Fortunately for the Gauchos they get an immediate shot at starting a new tournament streak when they travel to Las Vegas to take part in UNLV's adidas Classic. 13th-ranked UCSB will be squaring off against No. 15 Northwestern and No. 23 Portland.
Northwestern Game Capsule
UCSB will meet up with Northwestern University for the first time in program history on Friday, September 9th at 4:30 p.m. Last season, the Gauchos met up with four different programs for the first time, posting a perfect 5-0-0 record, topping: Columbia, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UNC Greensboro, Seton Hall, and Connecticut, with all but CU being ranked in the Top 25 at the time. In the last three seasons, UCSB has gone a combined 11-2 in first time meetings. Losing only to St. John's in the 2003 NCAA Sweet 16, and to Indiana earlier that same year.
The Wildcats enter this weekend's UNLV adidas Classic sporting a 2-0-0 record and are ranked No. 15 by Soccer America. They opened their season by beating Western Kentucky and St. Francis to claim their own Lakeside Classic. Brad North, Kevin Earnest, and Adam Sirois have each tallied one goal on the season.
Portland Game Capsule
Sunday's 2:30 p.m. match against Portland with be the fifth ever between the two schools, with the Pilots have gone undefeated in the previous four. UCSB will be looking to pick up its first win against Portland, who holds an 0-3-1 series advantage, having last met up in 1995 on the campus of the University of Washington, losing 2-0.
The Gauchos have fared well against their Far West brethren in recent years, posting a combined 3-2-1 overall record against WCC schools since 2002, with both losses coming to Loyola Marymount in 2002 and 2003. Last season, Santa Barbara tied WCC Champions San Francisco 1-1 in San Francisco.
The Pilots are currently tied at No. 23 in the nation in the NSCAA national poll, and sit at No. 5 in the NSCAA Far West regional poll after opening the season by tying current No. 16 Creighton at home before beating Cal Poly, also at home.
Not So Neutral
In completely neutral site tournaments, as is the case this weekend with UCSB not playing host UNLV, Santa Barbara is a perfect 4-0 under Tim Vom Steeg, winning the St. Louis Nike Classic in 2002 and taking the tourney crown at the University of New Mexico Lobo Invitational last season. The Gauchos beat James Madison and Missouri State in '02 and then No. 1 Indiana and Columbia last year. Overall, UCSB has a combined record of 8-2-0 in neutral sites matches since 2001, with the only two losses coming at the hands of Indiana, once in a regular season match in 2002 at Cal State Fullerton, with the other being last year's NCAA National Championship match at The Home Depot Center. Had the ruling regarding penalty kicks and overtime matches for title matches not been changed, the Gauchos would have a combined neutral site record of 8-1-1 since 2001, having gone undefeated in six straight. As is stands, UCSB has a four-game winning streak in regular season neutral site matches.
The Rankings Game
When you are No. 4 in the nation statistics prove that you are more likely to go down than up. So when the Gauchos fell in this week's national rankings it was no surprise, after all, when nearly half of your starting lineup is new staying there is harder than climbing there, especially when both of the teams you opened up with enter week two ranked in the Top 10 (UVA, 5th; Cal 10th). Taking all the factors into consideration, those involved in college soccer realized that UCSB starting the season 0-1-1 was not as true indication of how good of a team it is. The Gauchos slipped from a preseason No. 7 in College Soccer News' poll to No. 13 this week, and from a preseason No. 9 in Soccer America's Top 25 18th this week. And although UCSB slipped from the NSCAA Top 25 for the first time since the start of the 2003 season, they have an excellent opportunity to move back into next week's as they face No. 23 Portland this weekend, a team from their same region, the Far West. In fact, the big reason why the Gauchos are not in the NSCAA poll is because of the overall strength of the Far West and how the Top 25 is set up to select teams from all eight regions. Santa Barbara currently sits seventh in the region, two spots behind Portland. In Soccer Times' Top 25, UCSB slid from preseason No. 3 to 16th in this week's poll.
In the Bulls-Eye of the Bears
It was touched on last week about how starting the season near the top was foreign territory for the Gauchos. Well with week one now having come and gone they know what it is like to have a huge bulls-eye tattooed on their backs. No longer is the day when only Big West opponents circled UCSB on their schedule, now every team with UCSB on its schedule circles their match with the Gauchos. In Santa Barbara's season-opener against Cal, who moved up to No. 10 in the NSCAA poll this week, the atmosphere and intensity of the match rivaled that of an NCAA Tournament game. A defensive miscue allowed for a Golden Bear goal in the 24th minute, and it was not until after sophomore preseason All-American Andy Iro received a red card in the 74th minute that Cal was able to score its second and final tally of the match. The new look Gauchos had some quality chances of their own in the match thanks to the play of sophomore Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund in the middle of the field. Cal wound up out-shooting UCSB 12-10 in the match, but had it not been for a stellar team-save by Golden Bear defender Tyson Wahl near the 70th minute to preserve its 1-0 lead, the outcome of the game could have been much different.
Up to the Challenge
Santa Barbara made big improvements from last Friday's match against the 10th-ranked Golden Bears to last Sunday's clash against Virginia who climbed to No. 5 in the NSCAA poll. Now armed with the experience of knowing how teams will approach them, and one-game under the newcomers' belts, the Gauchos' solid play shutout a Cavalier squad scored two goals and registered 18 shots in its season-opener. Playing without Andy Iro and 2004 Second Team All-Big West selection Nate Boyden, who were serving red card suspensions, UCSB stepped up to the challenge of improving the team's cohesion under adversity. The Gauchos were able to string passes together much more effectively and pressured Virginia's stout defense all night, resulting in a 9-3 advantage in corner kicks and forcing Cav's keeper Ryan Burke to make four saves. However Burke's biggest stop of the match was not a save. Towards the end of regulation, senior forward Jonathan Davis make a swift move along the touch line, just to the right of the goal, and chipped a cross to a wide open Bryan Byrne on the back post. Burke elevated pulled down the Davis cross from above the cross bar, taking away an almost sure goal with less than ten minutes remaining in regulation. In goal for UCSB, junior Kyle Reynish made 11 saves, and senior Chris Hughes made one team-save to give the Gauchos their first shutout of the season.
The Young Guns
When UCSB took the field last Friday it unveiled a new look squad. Although it returned six players who were considered starters at the end of last season, or 2003 as was the case with Jeff Murphy, their overall collegiate experience would be fall on the low side. In last year's NCAA National Championship match, the Gauchos' starting lineup had a combined 507 career matches started between the eleven of them, or an average of 46.1 a piece. In Friday's season-opener against No. 10 Cal, UCSB's starting XI only had a combined 115 starts amongst them, or an average of 10.5 per player. With an average per player start total deficiency of 30.6 compared to the 2004 title match squad, it was as if Santa Barbara opened the season with a lineup that had over a season-and-a-half less experience than it ended 2004 with, across the board. Altogether, Friday's lineup consisted of five players with two or less starts in 2004; Kyle Reynish, Jeff Murphy, Brennan Tennelle, Ivan Becerra, and Eric Avila. Career wise, only three players in the starting lineup against Cal had 20 or more, Boyden (46), Scott (21), and Iro (21). And Sunday's starting XI was even more green with the absence of Iro and Boyden, it averaged just 9.1 career starts per player, or 100 total, with seven players making ten starts or less in 2004.
Reynish's Reign Begins
After a brief hiccup on Friday against Cal, junior netminder Kyle Reynish picked up whereljk he left off in 2004, as one of the best shot-stoppers in the nation. Following last season's National Championship match against Indiana where Reynish made two saves in the penalty kick portion of the match, he entered this year with just one goal allowed in over 427 career minutes played with a pair of shutouts. With five total saves in Friday's season-opening match, his first as UCSB's "starting" goalkeeper, Reynish set a new career-high with seven saves in Sunday's draw against No. 5 Virginia to secure his third career complete game shutout. Had it not been for the some of the spectacular saves that Cal's Eric Kronberg made in the season-opener to help him earn National Goalkeeper of the Week (College Soccer News) honors, Reynish's five on Friday might have earned the Gauchos' their seventh-straight season-opening win. One week into the season Reynish is sporting a 0.90 goals against average having played against a pair of teams that each netted two goals in their other matches on the weekend, averaging a combined 18.5 shots in those matches.
On the Brink!
UCSB is still searching for that first goal to break the seal on the season, with a multitude of offensive weapons it's just a matter of time until the pieces begin to come together. Losing Drew McAthy and Neil Jones to graduation, the Gauchos have been forced to look elsewhere for its offensive output for the first time in three years. Senior Jonathan Davis had a couple of quality chances last week, only to be stymied by some spectacular goalkeeping. Davis also helped set up a number of other potential scoring opportunities, as did sophomore Tyler Rosenlund and freshman Eric Avila. Although they were held scoreless on the weekend, the Gauchos averaged 11.0 shots per match, placing an average of 4.5 on frame. Rosenlund and senior Ivan Becerra led the team with five shots each, Avila and Bryan Byrne are tied for third with three a piece, and Davis is fifth with two.