October 2, 2007

No. 25 UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton On Tap For 12th-Ranked UCSB This Week

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Oct. 2, 2007

The Schedule
Match No. 9
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
No. 12 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. No. 25 UC Irvine Anteaters
Harder Stadium
Kickoff 8:00 p.m.

Match No. 10
Saturday, October 6, 2007
No. 12 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Cal State Fullerton Titans
Harder Stadium
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.

Gauchos Make Statement In Big West Opener
The defending Big West champions sent a message to the rest of the league with a convincing 4-0 win at UC Davis in their lone match last week. Chris Pontius scored what would become the game-winner in the 35th minute, finishing a deflection that bounced off the Aggie keeper for the early 1-0 advantage. Eric Avila continued his hot streak offensively with a goal in the 59th minute, Jon Curry followed with his first goal of the season in the 77th, and Martin Hedevag added another for good measure with two seconds left to play as UCSB avenged last season's 1-0 defeat at Aggie Field. Santa Barbara and Davis each recorded 15 shots in the match, but the Gauchos were the ones doing all the finishing in last Saturday's conference opener. After winning four of its last six matches, UCSB enters play this week with a 4-2-2 overall record and a 1-0-0 mark against league competition.

UCSB On the Air and Web
UCSB fans can catch the Gauchos' showdown with No. 25 UC Irvine by tuning in to KCSB 91.9 in Santa Barbara. After following UCSB during its championship run in 2006, Chris "Hoffy" Hoffman and Alex "No H" Pavlovic are back for more this season and will be calling the action live from Harder Stadium Wednesday night. The Gaucho faithful can also listen to the two hardest working guys in student radio online by logging on to www.kcsb.org.

Welcome Back, FSC
Wednesday's match with 25th-ranked and Big West rival UC Irvine will be televised nationally by the Fox Soccer Channel. For the second year in a row FSC will broadcast a game at Harder Stadium live as part of its 20-game "live and exclusive NSCAA College Match of the Week" package. To accomodate television, the Gauchos and Anteaters will kickoff at 8:00 p.m., instead of the regular 7:00 p.m. start time for most UCSB home games. Last season Santa Barbara hosted No. 7 UCLA with the cameras rolling in what became a national championship preview Oct. 5. The Bruins won 3-1.

Scouting the Anteaters
• UCSB hosts UC Irvine Wednesday in the Gauchos' Big West Conference home opener. The mid-week contest marks the 42nd meeting between the two schools with Santa Barbara leading the all-time series 27-11-3. In the first meeting between the rivals last season, Nick Perera scored twice to lead UCSB to a 2-0 victory over UCI on Oct. 7 at Hader Stadium. The Anteaters then returned the favor, defeating the Gauchos 2-0 at their place as Matt Murphy and Brad Evans found the net Nov. 1. Irvine was the only team to defeat Santa Barbara in its final 12 matches of 2006, as the Gauchos went on to win the national championship.

• UCI enters its Big West Conference opener Wednesday after posting an overall record of 5-1-2 in non-conference play to start the season. The Anteaters, who have been ranked as high as No. 25 so far in 2007, tied San Diego State 0-0 Saturday. Irvine returns a total of 14 letterwinners and five starters from last year's squad that went 13-4-3 overall and finished second in the Big West standings behind UCSB at 6-3-1.

• The Anteaters have outscored their opponents 14-6 to start the season and rank second in the Big West in terms of goals scored. Junior midfielder Matt Murphy paces the UC Irvine offense with a team-high five goals and one assist for 11 points, while freshman forwards Spencer Thompson and Amani Walker have each scored two goals apiece. Rookie Pat Barton has been the man between the posts, starting seven Anteater contests and brings a 0.80 goals against average with 26 saves and three shutouts into tonight's match.

Scouting the Titans
• After its bout with UC Irvine, UCSB will welcome Cal State Fullerton to Harder Stadium on Saturday. The Gauchos and Titans will square off for the 44th time in a series in which Fullerton holds a narrow 22-20-2 advantage all-time. Nick Perera scored in the 106th minute to lift Santa Barbara to a 2-1 double overtime win in the first meeting last year Sept. 21 in Fullerton and Tyler Rosenlund netted the game's only goal in a 1-0 Gaucho win Oct. 21 at Harder Stadium.

• CSUF enters the second week of Big West play with an overall record of 4-4-0 and a 0-1-0 conference mark after falling 1-0 to Cal Poly Saturday. The Titans, who will host Cal State Northridge Wednesday night, return 13 players and eight starters from their 2006 squad that finished fifth in the Big West at 3-7 and went 7-11-1 overall.

• The Titans have been outscored 14-8 by their opponents through eight games but do lead the Big West with 34 saves. Senior midfielder Skyler Thuresson leads the team with two goals and is followed by six players with one each. Senior defender German Moreno holds the team lead in assists with two. Fellow fourth year Brent Douglas has started four games in goal and owns a 3-1-0 record with 13 saves, three shutouts, and a GAA of 0.31.

National Poll Watch
UCSB's 4-0 win at UC Davis, a victory over a team that had already won five times and gone unbeaten in six straight, translated into a climb in the national polls for the second week in a row. Santa Barbara moved up in the weekly NSCAA/adidas coaches poll for the first time in three weeks and enters the second week of Big West play with a ranking of No. 18, up two spots from last week's No. 20. In the media polls, the Gauchos' climb continued, as they moved up one spot from No. 13 to No. 12 in the current College Soccer News Top 30. UCSB's biggest change from last week came in the latest Soccer America Top 25, as the team climbed from the No. 15 spot last week to No. 12 this week. Lastly, UCSB slipped one spot in the the SoccerTimes Top 25, falling to No. 16 after securing the No. 15 slot last week to round out the polls.

Offense Continues to Roll
The Santa Barbara offense found its form with a 5-1 win over visiting Columbia Sept. 21 and the Gauchos had another outstanding performance Saturday against UC Davis. With the 4-0 win, UCSB has now scored 10 goals in its last three games after totaling just seven in the first five matches to start the season. The Gauchos rank second in the Big West with 17 goals and an average of 2.12 goals per game in 2007. Additionally, UCSB continued to get offensive production from multiple sources as four different players accounted for the team's four goals in the win over the Aggies. The defending national champions have scored 17 goals with a total of nine Gauchos finding the net.

Don't Forget the D
While the offense turned UCSB's conference opener at UC Davis into a laugher, the defense deserves just as much recognition. 2007 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy candidate Andy Iro and the Gaucho defense recorded the team's second shutout of the season and first away from Harder Stadium, holding down an Aggie team that had scored 23 goals entering the match -- more than any other squad in the Big West -- scoreless for 90 minutes. And although Davis was able to fire off 15 shots in the match, only three of those were on frame and the Aggies never really had a quality scoring opportunity. After the Gauchos recorded 12 shutouts on the way to a national championship in 2006, head coach Tim Vom Steeg has to be pleased with what he saw from his defense last week.

Leader of the Pack
Junior midfielder Chris Pontius continued his outstanding play last week, scoring a goal against the Aggies to maintain his unlikely status as the Gauchos' leading scorer in 2007. The Yorba Linda, Calif. native punched in the rebound off Davis goalkeeper Brian Wickers at the 34:39 mark for the 1-0 lead and the eventual game-winner in UCSB's 4-0 win. The goal was his team-leading fourth of 2007 for nine points and was also his second game-winner of the season, which is also tops on the squad. Pontius, who entered the season with just four goals in 43 career games in the blue and gold, ranks third in the Big West in terms of goals scored. A striker at Servite High School, Pontius has been extremely valuable for the Gauchos over the last three years, playing primarily in the midfield but also filling in on the backline and up front from time to time. He is one of the most versatile players on the Santa Barbara roster and there is no denying -- now, more than ever with his newfound offensive prowess -- how critical Pontius is to the Gauchos' success.

Avi Being Avi
Another player that has been getting the job done offensively recently has been junior midfielder Eric Avila. The Preseason All-American scored his third goal of the season Saturday at UC Davis and has now found the net in three of UCSB's last five matches. The San Diego native gave the Gauchos a 2-0 lead 13 minutes into the second half when he beat the Aggie keeper one-on-one for the score at the 58:56 mark. Avila is second on the squad with three goals and now has a total of 14 for his career as Gaucho -- the most of any of the 28 players on UCSB's current roster. Santa Barbara is 3-0 this season when Avila has scored. He also has two assists for eight total points, which ranks sixth in the Big West, and leads the conference with 31 shots through eight games this season. Avila earned All-Big West First Team distinction in 2006 after leading the team with eight goals to go with five assists for 21 points.

Freshman Fortitude
Among the five Gauchos that have scored two or more goals this season, freshman defender Martin Hedevag is definitely the biggest surprise. The native of Gothenburg, Sweden has appeared in six games off the bench for UCSB in 2007 and, along with Tino Nuñez and fellow newcomer Ciaran O'Brien, ranks third on the squad with two goals. Hedevag scored his first-career goal as a Gaucho in Santa Barbara's 5-1 thrashing of Columbia Sept. 21, finishing a cross from Jon Curry on his first touch of the game in th 76th minute. He put the finishing touches on another Santa Barbara victory last week, collecting a feed from Tony Chinakwe for the Gauchos' fourth and final goal at the 89:58 mark against UC Davis.

Iro, Avila Named to Hermann Award Watch List
Senior defender Andy Iro and junior midfielder Eric Avila were recently named to the 2007 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List, marking the first time in program history that two Gauchos were selected for the prestigious list that will eventually determine the NCAA Division I Player of the Year. The defending national champions are one of only two schools in the nation that had multiple players named to the Watch List, joining senior goalkeeper Matt Allen and junior forward Byron Dacy of Creighton. UCSB has now had a total of four players named to the list after Iro received the honor in 2006 and former teammate Tyler Rosenlund was selected in 2005. The winner of the M.A.C.'s Hermann Trophy will be determined by a panel of NSCAA Division I member coaches. A list of 15 semifinalists will be announced in November, and three finalists will be named in early December in conjunction with the NCAA Division I College Cup. The final three will be invited to the Missouri Athletic Club on Friday, January 11, 2008 and the winner will be announced during a nationally-televised news conference that evening.