No. 27 UCSB Wraps Up Regular Season at No. 18 UC Irvine, Then Home Against UC Riverside
Oct. 31, 2006
This Week's Schedule
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
No. 27 UC Santa Barbara (11-6-0, 6-2-0) at No. 18 UC Irvine (12-3-3, 5-2-1)
Anteater Stadium Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 4, 2006
No. 27 UC Santa Barbara (11-6-0, 6-2-0) vs. UC Riverside (5-10-2, 2-4-2)
Harder Stadium Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Slowing Down the Anteaters
UCSB opens the final week of the 2006 regular season at red-hot UC Irvine. Wednesday night's contest will mark the 41st time the Gauchos and Anteaters have squared off, with UCSB holding a 27-10-3 advantage in the all-time series. In the first meeting of the year at Harder Stadium, the Gauchos shutout the then-conference-leaders 2-0 to take over first place in the Big West standings. Sophomore forward Nick Perera scored in the 15th minute to give Santa Barbara an early 1-0 lead, and then found the net again at the 68:19 mark to put the match out of reach. In 2005, the Gauchos recorded a 2-0 win over the Anteaters in Santa Barbara after the two squads battled to a 2-2 tie in Irvine a month earlier.
UCI enters Wednesday's match-up with a 12-3-3 mark, with one of those three losses coming to the Gauchos October 7. The Anteaters are second in the BWC standings at 5-2-1 following a 3-1 home win over Cal State Fullerton last week. Currently ranked as high as No. 18 by the NSCAA, Irvine is riding a five-game unbeaten streak and has not lost since falling to Cal State Northridge 4-1 October 11. Sophomore defender Matt Murphy has been terrific offensively, leading the team with nine goals and 23 points. Senior midfielder Anthony Hamilton is second with eight goals and four assists. Senior keeper Kenny Schoeni has started all but one game and owns a 0.95 goals against average with 54 saves and eight shutouts.
Conquering the Highlanders
After UCSB battles Irvine with the conference title on the line, UC Riverside will come to town in the regular season finale Saturday. The Gauchos and Highlanders have met a total of 17 times and Santa Barbara holds a 15-2 all-time advantage. Earlier this season, Riverside defeated UCSB 1-0 after a goal from Nathan Paterson just 1:15 into the match held up. With the win, the Highlanders defeated the Gauchos for the first time as a Division I program and snapped UCSB's 10-game winning streak in the series. Prior to the October 11 meeting, UCR's only win over Santa Barbara was all the back in 1974, when Riverside was a Division II program.
The Highlanders enter their Wednesday contest with Cal State Fullerton with a 5-10-2 overall record and a 2-4-2 conference mark after spliting games with UC Davis and Cal Poly last week. UCR is led by freshman forward Paterson who has tallied a team-high four goals with two assists this season, while junior midfielder Andrew Villalobos has found the net twice and recorded four assists. Junior Goalkeeper Charles Alamo has started all 17 of Riverside's games between the posts and holds a 1.70 goals against average with 72 saves.
Saturday night's match with UC Riverside will also be senior night. Gaucho seniors Bryan Byrne, Eric Frimpong, Jeff Murphy, and Kyle Reynish will be making their final regular season appearance at Harder Stadium. These four will be honored with a special ceremony prior to the start of the game.
UCSB Outlasts Northridge, 1-0
UCSB avenged its worst defeat of the season with a 1-0 victory over rival Cal State Northridge in its only game last week. For the second consecutive year, the Gauchos and Matadors squared off in a CSTV-televised match at Harder Stadium and this time Santa Barbara came out on top after the two teams battled to a 2-2 tie in 2005. Eric Avila scored the game's only goal in the 27th minute, slipping a cross from Bryan Byrne past the Matador keeper just inside the right post. Despite being out-shot 15-11 for the match, the UCSB defense was outstanding once again, recording its fourth-straight shutout. Goalkeeper Kyle Reynish finished with five saves and made several critical stops to keep CSUN from pushing through with the equalizer. As is always the case when these two Big West heavyweights go at it, the match was very physical, with a total of 41 fouls called, including seven yellow cards. With the victory, the Gauchos snapped a three-game winless streak in the series and defeated the Matadors for the first time since November 9, 2004.
Don't Look Now, But the Gauchos Are Streaking
Last Wednesday's 1-0 decision over Big West rival Cal State Northridge was the Gauchos' fourth-consecutive win, which is a season-high. After losing three of four from September 23 through October 5, UCSB has bounced back, winning five of it last six, including the last four. Santa Barbara has defeated conference foes Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, and now Northridge, as well as future Big West rival UC Davis, over that span to improve to a season-best five games over the .500 mark at 11-6-0 overall. The streak of four consecutive victories matches the Gauchos' season-high from a year ago, when they won four-straight from September 9-23.
Defense Throws Away the Key
Entering the final week of the regular season, the UCSB defense is truly firing on all cylinders. With the 1-0 win over Cal State Northridge last week, the Gauchos have played near-perfect defense in their last four games, recording four straight shutouts--all of which ended in Santa Barbara victories. While the Gauchos have held their opponents scoreless six times in the last eight games, the defense has also allowed just one goal in the last six, a span of over 540 minutes of play. With a total of 10 shutouts in 17 matches this season, UCSB leads the Big West Conference and ranks 10th nationally with a 0.59 shutout percentage. In fact, of the Gauchos' 11 victories this season, all but one have been a shutout. Only Cal State Fullerton was able to find the net in a UCSB win this year, getting a goal from Eugene Brooks in the 2-1 decision September 21. Santa Barbara's defense also owns the nation's 29th-best goals against average at 0.81 goals per game.
...And Then There Were Two
It goes without saying that this week's match-up with UC Irvine is a rather large one, but let's say it anyway. After UCSB officially eliminated CSUN from contention with the win last week, the Big West title and automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament will come down to the Gauchos and Anteaters in 2006. At 6-2-0 and two points ahead of Irvine in the conference standings, Santa Barbara is in position to clinch its fourth league title in the last six years with a win over the Anteaters Wednesday. Doing so would give UCSB 21 points and an insurmountable five point lead in the standings. If the match ends in a tie, the Gauchos would still hold the conference lead with 19 points, and the Anteaters would need to defeat the defending champion Matadors and hope UCSB stumbles against UC Riverside again Saturday. Even if the Gauchos lose Wednesday, it wouldn't be the end of their title hopes, as they could still hoist the trophy with a win over UC Riverside and a loss by the Anteaters at the hands of the Matadors. To simplify everything, in order for UCSB to finish second, it would have to lose twice and UC Irvine would have to win out. Fortunately, the Gauchos control their own destiny and can recapture what they lost a year ago if they take care of business Wednesday.
A Return to The Polls
After winning five of their last six matches, including four straight UCSB made a return to the College Soccer News Top 30 released on Monday after a three-week absence. The Gauchos came in at No. 27 in the national media poll, one spot higher than the No. 28 position they last held on October 2. Santa Barbara has been ranked as high as No. 7 in 2006 but dropped out of all three Top 25 polls following the brutal 5-0 loss to Cal State Northridge September 27. UCSB then slipped out of the polls all together for the first time in over three years the following week after falling 3-1 at the hands of then-ranked No. 7 UCLA. With No. 18 UC Irvine on tap this week the Gauchos can not only hoist the Big West Conference trophy with a victory over the Anteaters, but a win would help strengthen their position entering the NCAA Tournament.
Reynish Shines On Big Stage
Senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has been the man all season between the posts and has been absolutely brilliant lately. After shutting down rival Cal State Northridge last week, the Valencia, Calif. native has now recorded four consecutive shutouts and held UCSB's opponents scoreless five times in the last six games. After the Gauchos took a 1-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, the Matadors came out firing in the second period and out-shot UCSB 12-3 in the half. Reynish weathered the storm, however, and made several critical stops to preserve the shutout. His performance definitely did not go unnoticed, as Reynish earned a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week and was also named the Big West Player of the Week. For the season, Reynish leads the conference with 10 shutouts in 16 games, which is a new career-high. In addition to leading the Big West in shutouts, he ranks among the conference's top-two keeper's in virtually every statistical category, including goals against average (0.81), saves (67), and save percentage (.827). Reynish is also one of the biggest reasons why Santa Barbara has the conference's top ranked defense, allowing 14 goals in 17 games for a 0.81 goals against average.
Avi Steps Up
Sophomore sensation Eric Avila scored his second goal in the last four games, lifting UCSB to a 1-0 win over rival Cal State Northridge last week. After the Gauchos came up empty on several attempts, Avila came through at the 26:13 mark. Senior midfielder Bryan Byrne dribbled around one Northridge defender on the right wing and then made a great play to keep the ball away from another. Once he entered the box, he centered it for Avila who put in a shot between the right post and a diving Matador keeper for the eventual game-winner. The goal was the midfielder's fourth of the season, which is second on the squad in 2006. The San Diego native leads the Gauchos with two game-winners, 42 shots, and 22 shots on goal and is third with a total of 10 points this season. Avila scored a pair of goals in Santa Barbara's season-opening victory over then-ranked No. 7 Akron and then netted the game-winner at Cal Poly October 14.