No. 15 UCSB Hosts Rival Cal State Northridge Saturday In First Match-Up of 2007

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Oct. 23, 2007

The Schedule
Match No. 14
Saturday, October 27, 2007
No. 15 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Cal State Northridge Matadors
Harder Stadium
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.

For the Record
UC Santa Barbara saw its season-high six match unbeaten streak come to an end last week with a 2-1 loss at Cal Poly Wednesday in front of a school-record crowd of 7,143. After the Mustangs took an early 1-0 lead in the 16th minute, UCSB finally answered with 34 seconds remaining in the first half on David Walker's first goal of the season. Cal Poly needed just 3:40 of the second period to take the lead again and the Gauchos were unable to push through with a second goal, ultimately falling 2-1. The loss was Santa Barbara's first in Big West play this season and gave the Mustangs sole possesion of first place in the league standings. It was also the Gauchos' first defeat at the hands of the Mustangs in 12 prior meetings. UCSB then bounced back on Saturday with a 2-1 win at UC Riverside as Eric Avila found the net in the 47th minute and Ciaran O'Brien scored the game-winner in the 63rd to deliver the Gauchos' fourth victory in six league contests this season. With the win, Santa Barbara improved to four games over the .500 mark for the second time this season at 7-3-3 and maintained its second place position in the Big West standings at 4-1-1. The Gauchos have not lost two in a row in 2007.

UCSB On the Air and Web
UCSB fans can catch the Gauchos' showdown with the Cal State Northridge 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 will be calling the action live from Harder Stadium Saturday night. The Gaucho faithful can also listen to the two hardest working guys in student radio online by logging on to www.kcsb.org.

Scouting the Matadors
• UCSB returns to Harder Stadium to take on conference rival Cal State Northridge Saturday night in its only match of the week. After the unfortunate death of a Northridge player postponed the October 10 meeting earlier this season, the Gauchos and Matadors will square off for the first time this weekend. The series between the two programs has developed into one of the nation's most heated rivalries, with CSUN holding a narrow 13-12-4 advantage.

• As you would expect the Gauchos and Matadors split their two meetings in 2006, with each team winning on its home field. Northridge got goals from five different players in the first match-up September 27 and defeated UCSB 5-0 in what became the worst defeat of the Tim Vom Steeg era. Santa Barbara evened the score at Harder Stadium October 25, as Eric Avila scored the game's only goal in the 27th minute to lift the Gauchos to a 1-0 win in a match that was televised by CSTV.

• The only program other than UCSB to win a conference title since the Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001, Cal State Northridge enters competition this week with an overall record of 4-3-5 after battling No. 27 Maryland to a 1-1 tie at College Park Sunday. The Matadors, who will host Cal State Fullerton Wednesday afternoon before Saturday's showdown with the Gauchos, have failed to win a game in league play this season and are currently last in the Big West standings at 0-1-3.

• Northridge has outscored its opponents 17-15 through 12 matches in 2007 and ranks fifth in the Big West averaging 1.42 goals per match. Defensively, the Matadors have been solid and rank second in the conference with five shutouts. Sophomore forward Sunghyun Kim leads the squad with four goals and nine points, while forward Camilo Rojas has been impressive during his freshman campaign with three goals and an assist for seven points. Junior goalkeeper Kevin Guppy has started all 12 contests between the posts and owns a goals against average of 1.01 with 43 saves and has been credited with all five shutouts.

Gauchos Respond At UC Riverside
After losing for the first time in Big West play in a battle for first place at Cal Poly last Wednesday, UCSB needed to respond against UC Riverside in order to keep pace with the Mustangs in the conference standings. The Gauchos did just that, getting goals from Eric Avila and Ciaran O'Brien in the second half on the way to a 2-1 victory over the host Highlanders. Santa Barbara out-shot Riverside 16-9 for the match and limited the Highlander's scoring chances all afternoon. The win was the Gauchos' fourth in their last six contests overall and third in a bounce-back game this season. UCSB has now followed all three of its losses with victories and has out-scored the opposition 9-2 in those games. The Gauchos shutout Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2-0 September 7 after losing their first game of the season, a 1-0 heartbreaker to Gonzaga five days earlier, and erupted for a season-high five goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Columbia five days after dropping a 2-1 decision at No. 28 New Mexico September 16. Santa Barbara was 5-1 in games following a loss during it national championship season in 2006.

Poll Position
With a record of 1-1 against Big West foes Cal Poly and UC Riverside, the Gauchos' slipped in the national polls for the second consecutive week, following a three-week climb from Sept. 25 through Oct. 8. Not surprisingly, the loss to the Mustangs out-weighed the win over the Highlanders and Santa Barbara slipped four spots in the weekly NSCAA/adidas coaches poll from No. 15 to No. 19 entering the fourth week of conference play. In the media polls, the Gauchos fell to No. 15 in the current College Soccer News Top 30, down five spots from last week's ranking of No. 10. UCSB holds the No. 16 position in this week's Soccer America Top 25, down three spots from the No. 13 slot the team enjoyed last week. Lastly, UCSB comes in at No. 17 in the current SoccerTimes Top 25 after falling four spots from No. 13 to round out the polls.

Defense Does Its Best To Fill Holes
After becoming the first team to shutout its first three opponents to open conference play since the Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001, UCSB has been less than spectacular on the defensive side since. In fact, the Gauchos have allowed five goals over the last three matches -- the highest total of any three game stretch this season. But the lapse has not been without good reason. With team co-captain Greg Curry sidelined with an injury since September 2, head coach Tim Vom Steeg has fielded his projected starting backline exactly once twice this season -- the first two games of the year. Santa Barbara has been even more depleted in the back recently with players missing time to serve suspensions. The Gauchos were forced to take on a very talented Cal Poly squad without the services of three-time All-American Andy Iro, who was out serving a red card suspension, and allowed two goals in a 2-1 defeat. UCSB was then without a starting defender for the second straight game Saturday, as freshman Michael Boxall missed his second match in conference play after he was issued a red card against the Mustangs. The Gaucho defense has been banged up all season, but the good news is both Iro and Boxall will back in the lineup for Saturday's match.

How the Big West Is Won
With three weeks of league play in the books, the race for the Big West title seems to be narrowing down to two teams: UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. The Gauchos entered last Wednesday's showdown with the Mutangs in a first place tie in the Big West standings, but fell out of the top spot for the first time this season after dropping a 2-1 decision to their Central Coast rivals. Santa Barbara rebounded with a 2-1 victory at UC Riverside Saturday and moved closer to Cal Poly in the standings after the Mustangs tied UC Irvine 1-1 later that night. UCSB is currently sitting in second place with 13 points with a league record of 4-1-1 and is just one point behind first place Cal Poly with 14 at 4-0-2. UC Davis is a distant third with seven points at 2-3-1 and no other squad has more than six points after that. Picked to take home the Big West crown for the sixth consecutive year, UCSB has six conference games remaining with three on the road and three at home. With four matches against the bottom three teams in the standings left on schedule and a rematch with Cal Poly at Harder Stadium November 3, the Gauchos are in great position to reclaim first place and bring home a fifth league title in the last seven years.

A Big Week For O'Brien
Sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien led the Gauchos with four shots in the tie with UC Davis October 12 and went on to have a tremendous impact offensively in the two games last week. In UCSB's loss at Cal Poly, the transfer from the University of San Diego recorded a game-high four shots and connected with David Walker on a sweeping cross from the right side in the 45th minute for the Gauchos' only goal of the game. O'Brien was even better in the win over UC Riverside, recording an assist on Santa Barbara's first goal in the 47th minute and then scoring the Gauchos' second in the 63rd. All alone in front of the Highlander keeper, O'Brien collected a cross from Tino Nuñez and punched home his first career game-winner in the blue and gold. The goal was his third of the season and first since since he scored in UCSB's 3-1 win over No. 3 SMU September 14. O'Brien also led the team with seven shots in the match, with four coming on frame. The native of Federal Way, Wash. was directly involved in all three goals last week and now leads the team with five assists in 2007.

Nuñez Sets The Table
Senior forward Tino Nuñez assumed the role of facilitator in the Gauchos' 2-1 win at UC Riverside last Saturday, recording an assist on both goals. The Long Beach, Calif. native worked a give-and-go with Ciaran O'Brien and then fed Eric Avila for the score in the 47th minute before connecting with O'Brien again for the eventual game-winner at the 62:34 mark. Nuñez, who tallied multiple assists in a game for the first time in his career, is now second on the team with four helpers this season. He is tied with O'Brien and junior midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan for third on squad with three goals, which is a new career high, and has tied his personal best for points in a season with 10.

He Scores, We Win
Junior midfielder Eric Avila scored his fourth goal of the season Saturday at UC Riverside, finding the net for the first time since he scored in the 59th minute at UC Davis September 29. The preseason All-American charged into the box and finished a cross from senior forward Tino Nuñez, calmly slipping the ball past Highlander keeper Charles Alamo to give the Gauchos a 1-0 lead at the 46:13 mark. Avila is second on the squad with four goals and now has a total of 15 for his career at UCSB -- the most of any of the 28 players on Santa Barbara's current roster. One of the biggest keys for the Gauchos offensively, UCSB is a perfect 4-0 this season when Avila has scored a goal after posting a flawless mark of 7-0 when he found the net in 2006. The San Diego, Calif. native also has four assists for 12 total points, which ranks second on the team and fifth in the Big West. He leads the conference with 38 shots through 13 games this season. Avila earned All-Big West First Team distinction last season after leading the team with eight goals to go with five assists for 21 points.

Walker Makes His Case
After appearing in 24 total matches and making 18 starts during UCSB's national championship season in 2006 -- the most among Gaucho freshmen -- midfielder David Walker has seen limited action as a sophomore this year. Entering last week's contest with Cal Poly, Walker had played in 10 of Santa Barbara's 11 matches, but nine of those appearances were off the bench. The Orange, Calif. native made a case for more playing time against the Mustangs, scoring UCSB's only goal of the match minutes after he came into the game. On a cross from Ciaran O'Brien, Walker placed a perfect header inside the left post to tie the game heading into the locker room at halftime. It was his second career goal in the blue and gold and first since he found the net in the Gauchos' 3-1 win at No. 1 SMU in the NCAA Tournament Second Round last year.

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.