Top-Ranked Gauchos Resume Big West Play This Week, Host Cal State Fullerton Wednesday
This Week's Schedule
Wednesday, October 6th
No. 1 UC Santa Barbara (8-0-1) vs. Cal State Fullerton (0-5-2)
Big West Conference Match
UCSB's Harder Stadium * 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 9th
No. 1 UC Santa Barbara (8-0-1) at Cal Poly (3-1-3)
Big West Conference Match
Cal Poly's Mustang Stadium * 7:00 p.m.
Still On Top
UC Santa Barbara joined elite company this week when they received their second consecutive No. 1 national ranking from the NSCAA, marking the third straight week that the Gauchos have been the top-ranked team in one of major polls. UCSB joins defending National Champion, and current No. 3 ranked Indiana as the only two schools to retain the top spot in the NSCAA poll this season. The Hoosiers, who started the year as the preseason No. 1 spent the first three weeks on top before losing 1-0 in overtime to the Gauchos in New Mexico. Maryland staked its claim at the top for one week in week four before UCSB moved its way in last week. The Gauchos are also the top-ranked team in the Soccer Times and College Soccer News polls, while Soccer America, the first poll to ever put the Gauchos No. 1 three weeks ago, slipped Santa Barbara down to No. 2 behind 11-0-0 Duke.
Cal State Fullerton Game Capsule
* Simply put, Cal State Fullerton is the best team in the nation without a win. Currently sporting a very deceptive 0-5-2 record, the Titans have played one of the most difficult schedules out there. Coming off of a 1-1 tie to then 12th-ranked UCLA last week, CSUF also tied current No. 15 Notre Dame in South Bend. And don't let the losses fool you, each has been by a one-goal margin and have come against the likes of Indiana, Cal, and Stanford.
* When the Titans come to town there is one player especially on the Gaucho roster who they will want to watch out for...Neil Jones. In UCSB's last five matches at home Jones has netted six goals, including his hat-trick two weeks ago against UC Riverside. Dating back to last season, in the Gauchos' last two home Big West games Jones has accounted for all four Santa Barbara goals, he netted UCSB's lone goal in its regular season home finale against, you guessed it, Cal State Fullerton.
* UCSB will be sporting an almost entirely new backline when they face Cal State Fullerton. The Gauchos will be without the services of Greg Curry for the next two games due to his second red card suspension, and central defenders Tony Lochhead and Andy Iro will be missing because each of them accumulated their fifth yellow cards of the season at USF.
Cal Poly Game Capsule
* The Gauchos longest and closest rivalry will renew once again this weekend in San Luis Obispo when they face Cal Poly for the 46th time. Santa Barbara commands the all-time series at 31-12-2, but in recent history it has been even more dominant. The Gauchos have won all six matches against the Mustangs since the Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001, and eight of the last nine total, including last year's 3-1 win San Luis Obispo. In UCSB's last six wins they have outscored Cal Poly 19-4, averaging over three goals per match.
* Currently 3-1-3 on the season, the second-best overall record in the Big West behind the Gauchos, Cal Poly began the season at 3-0-1 and has gone 0-1-2 since. Most recently the Mustangs are coming off a pair ties against San Jose State and Alabama A&M.
* Offensively Cal Poly is led by freshman midfielder Nikhil Erlebach with ten total points off of three goals and a conference leading four assists. Senior forward Ronnie Silva is second on the squad with six points, tying for the team lead with three goals. Freshman goalkeeper Jeremy Coupe has shown well in between the pipes with a 0.91 goals against average, playing all 690 minutes for the Mustangs.
As is the case most of the time in soccer, the team that has the most shots, usually scores the most goals, and therefore they usually win. Well, shot totals don't dictate much when it comes to UCSB matches thanks to the potency of the Gauchos' offense. Now nine games in the season UCSB is essentially in a dead heat with the opposition in shots at 108-107 in favor of Santa Barbara. However in the goal column there is a massive difference. This season the Gauchos have outscored their opponents by a 19-2 margin, shooting at an alarming .176 margin compared their counterparts miniscule .019 clip thanks to UCSB's stingy defense. In other words the Gauchos have not shot just twice as well as the opposition, but an astonishing 9 1/2 times better than their opponents. And it's not just the players who rarely gets shots that are pumping up UCSB's shot percentage, its four leading scorers (Drew McAthy, Neil Jones, Tyler Rosenlund, & Matt Bly) are all shooting .227 or better. On the flipside, as a team Kennedy and the rest of his defense has posted a .956 save percentage, their opponents have only mustered a .612 mark.
This Is Our House
When the Gaucho return home Wednesday they will have tradition on its side. Last season UCSB had its school record home-unbeaten streak snapped at 18, but since losing those two games back-to-back the Gauchos have been on a tear in Santa Barbara. Including its three wins this season, UCSB has posted five consecutive shutouts at home, including a 2-0 win over Cal in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, outscoring its opponents by a 12-0 margin. This season the Gauchos have outshot their opponents in all of their home matches by a total of 47-27, while their defense has limited the amount of quality chances, only forcing Kennedy to make three saves, combined, in the second halves. Going back to its 2-1 overtime win against USF, UCSB has won seven straight in Harder Stadium and has not allowed a goal at home in 486:43.
Okay so they are only one game into the 2004 Big West season with UCSB atop the standings at 1-0-0 in conference play, but if history is any indication that is where the Gauchos belong. Since the Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001, UCSB has been down right dominate in conference action, posting a combined record of 24-5-2 over that span as the program goes for its 25th current era-Big West win when it faces the Titans. In the last three seasons the Gauchos have claimed two Big West Championships, posted a current conference record of 9-0-1 in 2002, and advanced in the NCAA Tourney farther than only other member school when they reached the Sweet 16 last year. UCSB is currently riding four-game conference win streak in which it has outscored its opponents by an 8-1 margin, in addition to pacing the conference in total goals, assists, points, shutouts, goals against average, and attendance.
There's None Better
Senior goalkeeper Dan Kennedy earned his second Big West Player of the Week honors of the season this past week to make four-in-a-row for UCSB after the year's first accolades went to a player from UCR. Currently third in the nation with a 0.21 goals against average, Kennedy made eight saves in the Gauchos' double-overtime tie at USF with the Dons' lone goal coming by way of a penalty kick. Kennedy has proven himself time and time again to be one of the nation's top goalkeepers in high-pressure situations. UCSB's all-time shutout leader, he has put up two in NCAA Tournament play, and this season he has made three saves in the Gauchos' four overtime periods, helping them to a 1-0-1 record in extra-time. Dating back to last season, Kennedy has only given up one goal during the run of play in his last 1073 minutes and 42 seconds of regular season play. And including NCAA Tourney play he has only allowed five goals in the last 13 games (1233 minutes, 52 seconds), with goals against average of 0.36 during that span.
At this point it is safe to say that it is just a matter of time before Drew McAthy becomes UCSB's all-time goal scoring leader. When he converted on the Gauchos' penalty kick last weekend at USF to send the game into overtime, his fifth in as many tries for his career, the senior from Huntington Beach bumped his season total to eight while improving career mark to 43, three shy of Scott Grassinger's mark of 46. Adding in his three assists this season, McAthy is tied for 14th in the nation averaging 2.11 points per game (19 total). And his 0.89 goals per game mark put him 18th at 18th in the nation.