No. 14 UCSB Heads to Cal State Fullerton, Hosts Cal State Northridge in Nationally Televised Match Saturday
Oct. 4, 2005
This Week's Schedule
Wednesday, October 5
No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (5-2-1) at Cal State Fullerton (2-5-1)
Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 8
No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (5-2-1) vs. Cal State Northridge (6-2-1)
UCSB's Harder Stadium Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Match will be broadcast nationally on tape-delay by CSTV on Sunday, October 9th at 7:00 p.m. PST.
Still On Top
The 14th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team remains atop the Big West Conference standings this week after defeating Cal Poly 3-1 last Wednesday and UC Riverside 4-0 on September 18th...but they no longer hold sole possession of the top spot. Cal State Northridge posts an identical 2-0 record in league play after victories over the same two squads, Cal Poly and UC Riverside, for a share of first place in the BWC, making this weekend's match-up all the more intriguing. After winning the conference crown for the third time in four years last season, UCSB has now held at least a share of the conference lead since finishing second in 2003.
That's More Like It
After a tough 2-1 loss at Loyola Marymount two weeks ago, UCSB rebounded with a convincing 3-1 victory over Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo last Wednesday. Senior Ivan Becerra scored two goals, again, including the game-winner, and freshman Eric Avila netted the first goal of his collegiate career, as the Gauchos defeated the Mustangs for the ninth consecutive time to improve to 5-2-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big West.
Where They Rank With the victory over Cal Poly, UCSB climbed back into the NSCAA Coaches' Poll this week at No. 24 after slipping out of the Top 25 a week ago following its one goal loss to Loyola Marymount September 25th. This marked the Gauchos' second stint out of the Top 25 this year, with the first coming after a loss to then No. 10 Cal and a tie with then No. 6 Virginia at the start of the season. Santa Barbara finds itself 6th in the incredibly strong Far West Region. The Gauchos have climbed back to 14th College Soccer News' Top 30, up from last week's 19th-ranking, their lowest of the season. UCSB is also ranked 19th by Soccer Times, and 20th in Soccer America. Upstart Top Drawer Soccer.com has Santa Barbara at 6th, up one from its preseason nod of No. 7 in the poll.
Cal State Fullerton Game Capsule
UCSB heads south to face Cal State Fullerton this Wednesday in a key Big West showdown. The Titans lead the overall series between the two schools 22-16-2, but the Gauchos have had more success lately. Santa Barbara swept both meetings with Fullerton in 2004, winning 4-3 in double overtime on October 6 at Harder Stadium and pulling out a tight 1-0 victory at Titan Stadium October 30 on a Drew McAthy penalty kick.
Titan Stadium has not been the easiest of places for the Gauchos to play in the last two years. They barely edged CSUF 1-0 in 2004 on a penalty kick by senior forward Drew McAth, and in 2003 they suffered their worse defeat of the season with a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Titans.
CSUF enters Wednesday's match with a 2-5-1 overall record after a 2-1 overtime win over UNLV Sunday. Fullerton is 0-0 in conference play and will kickoff their league schedule against the Gauchos. The Titans have struggled to get things going early on, having netted just a total of seven goals and five assists this season and have an average of 0.84 goals per game. Junior midfielder Arron Craggs paces the squad with three goals. Junior Bobby Armstrong has played roughly 75% of the minutes in goal and currently sports a 2.19 goals against average with 31 total saves.
Cal State Northridge Game Capsule
After it's match with Cal State Fullerton, UCSB will return home to meet Big West rival Cal State Northridge Sunday. The all-time series between the two programs has been extremely close over the years, with the Gauchos leading by the narrowest of margins 11-10-3. As the series history between these two schools would suggest, they split their two games a year ago, with the Matadors handing the Gauchos their first loss of the season 3-1 on October 16 in Northridge. Santa Barbara avenged that loss, defeating CSUN 2-1 November 9 at Harder Stadium.
The Matadors enter Sunday's match 6-2-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big West after a 2-1 win over UC Riverside and a 3-1 victory over Cal Poly last week. Northridge has tallied a total of 19 goals and 18 assists this season for a 2.11 goals per game average. All-Big West First Teamer Willie Sims directs the Matador offense, leading the team with eight goals, 18 points and 35 shots. Freshman keeper Kevin Guppy has started every game between the posts and comes in with a 1.32 goals against average and 29 saves. Senior midfielder Daniel Paladini scored the game-winner against the Matadors and netted two goals against the Mustangs to earn a spot on this week's College Soccer News National Team of the Week.
A Well-Oiled Machine
After winning six out of their last eight matches, it is safe to say that the Gauchos' attack is firing on all cylinders, or atleast most of them. The proof is UCSB's current positions on 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 18 goals in the last six games the Gauchos surpassed the Matadors to grab a hold of the top spot, averaging 3.50 goals per game. As Santa Barbara continues to put the ball in the back of the net, the team has moved into first in the conference in assists per game (3.00) and points (20) as well. Defensively, the Gauchos have been the toughest there is to score on, allowing a league-best one goal for a .50 goals against average through two conference matches, and second best 0.85 goals against average overall.
No Substitute For Experience
When UCSB opened the season on September 2nd against Cal, the starting XI only had a combined 115 starts amongst them, or an average of 10.5 per player, and the lineup consisted of five players with two or less starts in 2004. This was quite a drastic change from the team that started last year's NCAA National Championship with a combined 507 career matches or an average of 46.1 a piece. Eight games into the season, the starting lineup against Cal Poly had a combined 190 starts for an average of 17.3 per player, nearly twice as many starts as when the 2005 season started. While the difference of 75 starts between the first match of the season and last week's is an improvement, the Gauchos' level of experience is still a far cry from last year's squad, but an even farther cry from Santa Barbara's opening day lineup.
After going scoreless through the first four games of the season, senior forward Ivan Becerra broke through against UC Riverside with a two-goal performance that earned him Big West Player of the Week honors. The senior followed that effort with another stellar performance against Alabama A&M, scoring a goal in the 52nd minute and then another minutes later to seal the victory for the Gauchos. Becerra continued to shine against Cal Poly last week, scoring what proved to be the game-winner in the 66th minute and adding another 49 seconds later to put the game out of reach. The forward was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week for his latest heroics against the Mustangs. His six goals, all in the Gauchos' last four contests, lead the team and are second in the Big West. Becerra has also recorded two assists this season, giving him 14 total points and sole possession of second place in the early going of the conference race for the scoring title.
For his work in helping the Gaucho offense break free from its opening weekend struggles, it was only a matter of time until freshman midfielder Eric Avila would net the first goal of his collegiate career that he deserved. After assisting on UCSB's first goal of the season against Northwestern, the U.S. under-17 National Team standout finally broke through for himself, literally. In UCSB's 3-1 the victory at Cal Poly he took a pass from fellow midfielder and sophomore Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund and put away a wide-open shot after beating the goalkeeper 1-on-1 to give UCSB a 1-0 lead early in the match. Avila is tied for second on the team with two assists, and his 17 shots are second most, as well.
Set Up Man
After Wednesday's match at Cal Poly, Ivan Becerra and senior midfielder Nate Boyden know each other much better than they used to. The pair connected twice in the second half for two goals as the Gauchos went on to defeat the Mustangs, 3-1. The two assists were the first and second of the season for Boyden, he is now the second Gaucho to record two in a game in 2005. The team's co-captain scored his only goal of the year against Northwestern September 9 on a stellar free kick.
Hermann Trophy Watch
Sophomore Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund continued to shine last week against the Mustangs. Under his direction, the Gaucho offense outshot Cal Poly 18-12 and tallied a 9-2 advantage in shots on goal. For the entire season, 58 of Santa Barbara's 114 shots have been on frame for a SOG percentage of .509. After posting two assists last week against Alabama A&M, Rosenlund connected with Avila on UCSB's first strike against Cal Poly in the 11th minute for his team-leading third dish of the season. Rosenlund has also done his job defensively in the midfield, helping UCSB to limit the opposition to a respectable .317 SOG percentage and a conference-leading +1.34 scoring margin thus far in 2005.