No. 2 UCSB Looks to Strengthen Its Hold on First Place in the Big West, Hosts UCI and Cal Poly
This Week's Schedule
Thursday, October 21st
Big West Conference Match
No. 2 UC Santa Barbara [11-1-1, 4-1-0 (1st)] vs. UC Irvine [5-8-0, 1-3-0 (4th)]
Harder Stadium Santa Barbara, Calif.
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 24th
Big West Conference Match
No. 2 UC Santa Barbara [11-1-1, 4-1-0 (1st)] vs. Cal Poly [4-4-3, 1-3-0 (4th)]
Harder Stadium Santa Barbara, Calif.
Kickoff 5:00 p.m.
Two out of 300 Ain't Bad
When you No.1 in the country, unless you stay there, there is no place to go but down. After setting the season-high last week by earning its third-consecutive No. 1 national ranking by the NSCAA, the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team slipped to No. 2 in this week's poll after it loss at Cal State Northridge. Ahead of UCSB is UNC Greensboro's squad that is making the University's first-ever appearance in a No. 1 slot at the Division I level. With the loss to the Matadors the Gauchos saw their program's best ever start end at an impressive 11-0-1. Now 11-1-1 on the year UCSB is 4th in the nation with a 0.885 winning percentage in addition to ranking 10th in scoring offense, averaging 2.46 goals per game, and 12th in defense with a 0.66 goals against average. In other national polls, the Gauchos are ranked No. 2 by Soccer Times and No. 3 by Soccer America and College Soccer News.
UC Irvine Game Capsule
Much like when Cal State Fullerton came to Santa Barbara two weeks ago, UC Irvine enters with a very deceiving 5-8-0 overall record, and a 1-3-0 Big West record, currently good for the four-way tie for fourth in the conference. The Gauchos currently sit in first with a 4-1-0 Big West record. In addition to a 3-2 win against then 20th-ranked Portland, the Anteaters are coming off of a 2-1 win at home over CSUF.
The last time that UC Irvine left the pitch in Harder Stadium, the Gauchos were left with a sour taste in their mouths and their school record home conference-unbeaten streak ended at 12 games. The 1-0 loss to the Anteaters was and is UCSB's only home conference loss since the Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001.
When the whistle blows for halftime on Thursday, UCSB will have a new record holder for minutes played by a field player (Dan Kennedy holds the all-time record at 6689). 42 minutes shy of Eric Price's record of 6444 minutes played, senior defender Tony Lochhead will set a new standard for all others to shoot for. In his career he has missed just 45 minutes of play in the 71 matches in which he has appeared and started in.
Cal Poly Game Capsule
Cal Poly enters Harder Stadium with an even 4-4-3 overall record. Since opening the pre-Big West season with a 3-3-1 record, the Mustangs have struggled in conference play to a 1-3-0 record in their last four games, tying them with UCI and two others for fourth in the Big West. Cal Poly's conference win came last week at home against the Anteaters in overtime.
UCSB has faced Cal Poly already once this season, dismantling the Mustang defense with four second half goals to hand Cal Poly a 5-1 loss in San Luis Obispo. The Mustangs got on the board first when Matthew Robinson picked off an errant pass by the Gaucho defense to give Cal Poly an early 1-0 lead. But UCSB's Jonathan Davis scored the equalizer just over three minutes later for his first of two goals on the night.
The Gauchos will be trying to make it 8-for-8 on Sunday, having beaten Cal Poly in its previous seven meetings with the Mustangs since the Big West reinstated men's soccer. With the exception of last years 2-0 home shutout of Cal Poly, UCSB has scored at least three goals in each of the last seven matches, and five in two. Overall the Gauchos have outscored the Mustangs 24-5 in Big West play.
Waiting `Til He Got Home
A two-game game scoreless streak is not very long for most players, then again most players are not like Drew McAthy. Having been denied the back of the net in both of UCSB's matches, the senior foward was held scoreless in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Currently second in the Big West and tied for 19th in the nation averaging 0.77 goals per game, McAthy leads UCSB with 10 on the year, bumping his career mark to 45 and one shy of tying Scott Grasinger's Gaucho record of 46 set between 1979 and 1983. Prior to last week McAthy had tallied at least one goal in four straight matches and registered at least one point in six. Coupled with his four assists so far he has rang up a team leading 24 points, placing him second in the Big West and 17th in the nation averaging 2.18 points per game. Should McAthy continue at his current pace he will also break Grassinger's all-time scoring mark of 113 before the season expires, he currently sits at 103 entering this week.
Some Kind Of Friend
Top-five here he comes. Senior Neil Jones has the opportunity this week to continue his climb up UCSB's record books. Having netted eight goals over the last seven matches, the 6-4 forward has moved his career total to 26, just one tally shy of tying Doug McKibbon ('68-'72) for fifth all-time in Gaucho history. Since being held scoreless in UCSB's first sixth games of the season, Jones has been on a tear with the Gauchos posting a perfect 5-0 record in matches where the Kiwi scores, and a 0-1-1 record in matches he doesn't. And although his goal scoring hot streak helped UCSB achieve and maintain its first-ever No. 1 national ranking for a nation's best four weeks, it has been his ability to distribute and pass the ball that has been the most noteworthy. Currently third in the Big West and tied for 23rd in the nation averaging 1.77 points per game, he tops the conference with seven assists, just one shy of his career-best, averaging 0.54 per match to tie him for 27th in the nation. But if you ask Jones if there was one person he would like surpass in the UCSB record books it would be his good friend and former teammate Rob Friend. Five short of tying Friend for fourth all-time in career goals, Jones can surpass the 2002 All-American's 70 career points with four of his own this week to bump his friend from the fifth spot all-time.
UCSB has gone a perfect 7-0-0 in matches this season where it has outshot it opponents, and 4-1-1 in games where it the shot totals were even or in favor of its opponents. And of those six games in which the Gauchos did not hold the shot advantage you would find all five of their games in which they were held to just one goal, the lone exception being when Santa Barbara netted two goals when it was outshot 10-7 by Seton Hall. But if you dig deeper you find the true key to the Gauchos success, or in other words their winning, has gone hand and hand with shot percentage. Before the loss this past weekend to current No. 24 Cal State Northridge, UCSB had limited its opponents to sub .125 shooting percentages in each of its matches in the run of play (i.e. excluding penalty kicks for both teams). On the contrary Santa Barbara has shot .154 or better in ten matches, and .250 or better in five. In the loss to the Matadors the Gauchos only shot .071 compared to CSUN's .231, nearly twice as efficient as only other team prior.
The Red and Yellow Plague
There is a reason why referees give out cards, and if you look at how it pertains to UCSB's defense you can tell why. During the Gauchos' perfect 8-0-0 run to start the season they outscored their opponents by an 18-1, or +2.12 per game. In those first eight games UCSB had, on different occasions, two one-game suspensions served by one of its starting defenders, with the lone goal allowed coming in one of those two matches. And although the Gauchos have still posted a 3-1-1 record in their last five matches, their defense has not been nearly as dominant due to the fact that only once has the entire starting four played an entire match together, UCSB's 3-0 shutout at UC Riverside. The UCSB offense has done its job posting 14 goals in that span, 2.80 per game, but the pieced together backline has allowed eight goals. And removing the full strength game at UCR, the Gauchos have only outscored their opponents 11-8, for a minuscule+0.6 scoring margin, nearly a one-and-a-half goal change...in the wrong direction. In fact, Cal State Northridge's first goal last weekend is the only goal scored against UCSB's starting defense (excluding PK's) this season.