This Week's Schedule
Friday, September 23rd
No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (3-1-1) vs. Alabama A&M (2-5-0)
UCSB's Harder Stadium Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 25th
No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (3-1-1) at Loyola Marymount (1-2-2)
LMU's Sullivan Field Kickoff 4:00 p.m.
Still On Top
10th-ranked UCSB finds itself in familiar territory following last week's 4-0 win over UC Riverside...sitting atop the Big West Conference standings. Playing in the first conference match-up of the season for any of the Big West schools, the Gauchos picked up where they left off in 2004. Starting out 2005 atop the Big West standings, UCSB has now held at least a share of the conference lead since finishing second in 2003, the only season in the last four years that Santa Barbara did not win the title. Following this weekend's non-conference matches, UCSB returns to Big West competition on September 28th at Cal Poly. There were no other conference games played last weekend which gives Santa Barbara sole possession of the top spot.
Alabama A&M Game Capsule
UCSB will face Alabama A&M for the first time in program history this Friday having won 12 of its last 14 meetings with first-time opponents. The Bulldogs have struggled out of the gates to a 2-5-0 record having opened the season with all seven of its matches on the road. Alabama will play one more match on the road before coming to Santa Barbara, taking on San Diego State this Thursday. The Bulldogs will then head back down to San Diego to take on USD the night following their match at Harder.
Alabama A&M's 20-man roster includes 14 players from Africa in addition to players from Bermuda, Tobago, Jamaica, and the United States, including two Californians. Freshman defender Mooketsi Letsholo from Botswana leads the Bulldogs with three goals and sophomore midfielder Henry Kabeta of Uganda comes in second with two.
Loyola Marymount Game Capsule
Santa Barbara continues its break from conference play when it heads to Los Angeles to face Loyola Marymount on Sunday, September 25. The Gauchos lead the all-time series 14-11-1, but LMU as been the victor as of late, winning the last seven meetings, five of which have been decided by one goal. UCSB last beat the Lions in 1995 by a 5-0 margin in Los Angeles.
The Lions come into the match 1-2-2 after battling to a pair of 1-1 ties last weekend against Tulsa and Southern Methodist at the SMU Classic. LMU has netted a total of 10 goals on the season, however eight of those came in an 8-0 victory over Northern Florida. Trini Gomez paces the squad with three goals and two assists. Junior Robert Flores has played all 490 minutes between the pipes for the Lions as currently sports a 1.47 goals against average with one shutout under his belt.
Back Where They Belong
UCSB climbed back into the NSCAA Top 25 this week after a two-week absence, its first in nearly three years, coming in at No. 22 in the poll. Listed as receiving votes in last week's poll, the Gauchos dropped from the NSCAA coaches' poll altogether in week two after beginning the season as the Preseason No. 4 following a loss to current No. 5 Cal and tying No. 4 Virginia. As said before, the main reason Santa Barbara dropped from the poll was the overall strength of its region, the Far West, which currently boasts six teams in this week's poll, more than any of the other seven regions in the nation. In the media polls UCSB broke back into the Top 10, garnering the No. 10 spot in both the College Soccer News and Soccer America polls, up from 12 in CSN and 15 in Soccer America. Santa Barbara also climbed from 16th to 12th in the Soccer Times coaches poll, and from 8th to 7th in Top Drawer Soccer.com's.
On Multiple Fronts
Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg is getting production from a wide spectrum of his roster in the early goings of the season as eleven different Gauchos have already hit the scoreboard year. As far as putting the ball in the net goes, six different players have tallied a total of eleven goals thus far, with all eleven goals coming in the last three matches. But it is the make-up of those six players that has got opposing teams on their toes, two are forwards, seniors Jonathan Davis and Ivan Becerra, two are midfielders, sophomore Hermann Candidate Tyler Rosenlund and freshman Chris Pontius, and last two are defenders, sophomore preseason All-American Andy Iro and senior Nate Boyden. And as just as UCSB's finishing has come from all over the field you would assume it has been generated from all over the field. Altogether, Santa Barbara has had eight players notch assists so far this season, with the two Erics, freshman Avila and junior Frimpong, leading the way with two apiece. By position, three of the assists had been credited to the forward line, four to the midfield, and four the defense.
After going scoreless through the first four games of the season, senior forward Ivan Becerra broke out in a fashion very similar to former teammate Neil Jones. Jones, the Gauchos' second leading returning scorer in 2004, was held scoreless through UCSB's first six games last year before posting a hat-trick in its conference-opener against, you guessed it, UC Riverside. Becerra just beat Jones to the punch, breaking through with a match-high two goals against UCR last week, fives games into the season. Scoring what proved to be the game-winner just seven minutes into the match, his two-goal performance earned the senior the first Big West Player of the Week honors this year for UCSB, and the first of his career. Tied for second on the team and third in the Big West with those two goals, he has also recorded an assist this season, giving him five total points and sole possession of third place in the early going of the conference race for the scoring title. He has also taken a team leading 14 shots, third most in the Big West.
JD: Just Does
So if Becerra is second on the team in scoring, who is leading? Senior forward Jonathan Davis has the distinction of holding down the top spot on the Gauchos' scoring chart with seven points, all of which have come in the last three matches. And all of which have come within the first 20 minutes of a match. Davis popped the cork on UCSB's season with a two-goals in a nine-minute span performance against then No. 15 Northwestern for his first four points of the year. He added to his total last weekend, moving into second in the conference in both goals and points, with a great individual effort to assist on Becerra's game-winner in the seventh minute before netting his own less than a minute later. Davis is currently tied for third on the team with nine shots, but off the nine he had put a team-high seven on frame for a team-leading .778 shots-on-goal percentage.
Unlike UCSB's offense, which took a couple of matches to get itself sorted out, Santa Barbara's defense has been strong out of the gate. Currently tied for 18th in the nation with a 0.57 goals against average, the Gauchos have allowed just one goal in its last four matches, albeit a wind-aided one. With the three shutouts through the first five matches of the season, Santa Barbara is tied for 16th in the nation averaging 0.60 per game. Junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has been a big part of UCSB's success in the back, tallying a total of 20 saves thus far in 2005, creeping just outside of the Top 20 nationally with a .870 shots on goal save percentage. But it has truly been a team effort for the Gaucho defense who has already recorded a trio of team saves on the season, including two in last week's match against UC Riverside. Junior defender Jeff Murphy has been responsible for two and sophomore Andy Iro cleared away the third. As a team, UCSB ranks 11th in the nation with a cumulative shots on goal save percentage of .885. Reynish, currently leads the Big West in goals against average, save percentage, shutouts, and shutouts per game. UCSB as a team also leads the conference in the same categories.
Having a Go at It
Now that the Gauchos' well-balanced attack has finally begun to start clicking, UCSB is climbing its way up the Big West scoring charts. After Cal State Northridge started the year with seven goals in their first two matches of the season it didn't look like anyone in the conference would be able to catch them, but with their eleven goals in the last three games the Gauchos have climbed their way into the second spot, averaging 2.20 goals per game to the Matadors' 2.33. And while most of CSUN's offensive output has come from one player, junior Willie Sims who is averaging conference-leading 1.17 goals per game, Santa Barbara's has been wide spread with Gauchos occupying the second, third, fourth, and fifth place spots on the conference goal-scoring charts.
Hermann Trophy Watch
Sophomore Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund was named to Top Drawer Soccer.com's National Team of the Week for the second straight after anchoring down the Gaucho midfield in UCSB's third straight win. Rosenlund has been ushering along a lineup combination that is completely new this season for the past three games, guiding UCSB to a trio of wins, two shutouts, and a combined 48-23 shot advantage. But what is most impressive about Rosenlund's direction of the offense is that of the Gauchos' 48 shots the last three games, 27 have been on goal. For the entire season 36 of Santa Barbara's 70 have been on frame for a SOG percentage of .514. Rosenlund has also done his job defensively in the midfield, helping UCSB to limit the opposition to a meager .214 SOG percentage and an impressive conference-leading +1.60 scoring margin thus far in 2005.