Fifth-Ranked Gauchos Look to Clinch Third Big West Title in Four Years This Week
This Week's Schedule
Tuesday, November 4
Big West Conference Match
No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (15-2-1, 1st) vs. No. 27 Cal State Northridge (9-4-2, 2nd)
Harder Stadium Santa Barbara, Calif.
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Friday, November 6
Big West Conference Match
No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (15-2-1) at UC Irvine (6-11-0)
Anteater Stadium Irvine, Calif.
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Moving Themselves Into Position
With this week's NSCAA/adidas coaches poll yet to be released at press time, UC Santa Barbara will more than likely enter the final week of the regular season ranked higher than last week's No. 5 national ranking. Ranked ahead of the Gauchos last week were UNC Greensboro at No. 1, and UCLA at No. 2, both of whom suffered losses last week, as well as SMU, who was ranked 3rd and will likely move into the No. 1 spot with its win over Vanderbilt, and No. 4 Notre Dame who tied Seton Hall in the Big East Semifinals but was ousted on penalty kicks. Amongst the four major polls only one has been released, College Soccer News tabbed the Gauchos 5th after their wins last week over UC Davis and then No. 18 Stanford to improve to 15-2-1 on the season.
Cal State Northridge Game Capsule
UCSB's match with Cal State Northridge marks the first of two chances for the Gauchos to redeem themselves and pick up wins over the only two teams to have defeated them this season. However, more pressing on Santa Barbara's mind when it takes to the field against the Matadors is the lone Big West Trophy missing from UCSB's locker room. In the first two seasons after the Big West reinstated men's soccer, the Gauchos owned the conference claiming the first two Big West titles and amassing a 16-2-2 combined conference record in that span. But last year was a different story as Cal State Northridge claimed the conference title, dashing UCSB's hopes at three straight. Well when they take to the field Tuesday night, the Gauchos will have their first chance at regaining the Big West Championship. If UCSB, which currently sits a top the conference standings with a 6-2-0 record and 18 total points, were to beat CSUN in Harder Stadium it will give the Gauchos the title of 2004 Big West Conference Champions. Should Tuesday's match end in a tie, Santa Barbara will still control its own destiny but will need a win at UC Irvine on Friday to claim its third Big West Title in the last four years. The Matadors' 4-1-2 conference places them second in the standings, four points behind the Gauchos with one extra game to play. Northridge snapped UCSB's 12-game unbeaten streak to start this season with a 3-1 home win on 10/16.
UC Irvine Game Capsule
UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara matches as of late seem to conjure up a bit of déjà vu. Just like last season the Anteaters came into Harder Stadium three weeks ago and handed the Gauchos, fresh off the heals of losing their first game of the season to Cal State Northridge, and handed UCSB its first home conference loss of the year by a 1-0 margin. If the déjà vu thing holds true Santa Barbara will win 1-0 in overtime at Anteater Stadium to close out its regular season...just like last year.
Currently third in the Big West with a 1.49 goals against average, senior netminder Cameron Rossi was named the conference's player of the week after he posted the shutout over the Gauchos, he was, and still is, the only goalkeeper to accomplish that feat against UCSB this season.
When the Gauchos take to the field on Friday it will be the final regular season game for arguably is the best class in UCSB men's soccer history. In their four seasons, before this week's games, the graduating class of 2004 has produced combined records of 60-15-6 overall and 29-7-2 in the Big West. Should they win both matches this week, not only will they have won the Big West crown in three of their four seasons, they will have led this year's team to a 17-2-1 overall record, tying the 2002 team for the best in program history.
Holdin' The Man Down
Just how dominant has UCSB's team defense been this season, well their school record 12 shutouts speaks for itself, but the method to their mayhem over the stretch of the last four games shouts it. With a chance on Tuesday to match their season-high five straight shutouts to start the season, the Gauchos have limited their opponents to a total of just three shots on goal in their current string of four straight blankings. After allowing the single goal and a late one-on-one opportunity to UC Irvine three weeks ago, both due to defensive mistakes, UCSB's defensive unit of Tony Lochhead, Andy Iro, Pat Scott, Nate Boyden and goalkeepers Kyle Reynish and Dan Kennedy put together a string of 276 consecutive minutes without allowing a single shot to be put on frame. Since that point, the Gaucho D has played a total of 386 minutes while giving up just the three shots on goal for an average of one shot on frame every 128.7 minutes. Having now gone 396 minutes without conceding a goal to bump its season total to 12, UCSB has a shot at the Big West's single season record of 14 set by UNLV in 1984, they currently stand as third best all-time.
Common knowledge might say that if a goalkeeper only had to make one save in a shutout that he didn't have much to do with it, not so is case when it comes to Dan Kennedy. In addition to his directing of the UCSB defense, the senior netminder has put himself in a spot to tie the Gaucho's single season record of 11 complete game shutouts by stopping the opposition's attack before it has a chance to start with excellent play in the air. Currently tops in the Big West and fifth in the nation with a 0.55 goals against average, Kennedy will surpass a milestone on Tuesday when he becomes the first Gaucho ever to reach 7,000 career minutes played in the 25th minute against the Matadors. Already UCSB's all-time leader in career shutouts with 31, his current career goals against of 0.90 would stand alone at the top of the Gaucho charts and fourth all-time in Big West history.
They Just Keep Coming
Just by stepping onto the field on Tuesday, senior forward Drew McAthy will set yet another UCSB record this season. Currently with 80 career matches played McAthy will tie Scott Rivenes' 18-year old record for most matches ever played in a Gaucho uniform. And thanks to his conference leading eighth game-winning goal of the season last Saturday against the Cardinal, the Huntington Beach striker has put himself in position to possibly break UCSB's all-time scoring before the end of the regular season. Now with 109 total points in his career, McAthy needs just four more to tie Scott Grassinger ('79-'83) as the Gauchos' all-time leading scorer.
Pick Your Poison
Drew McAthy is already one half of one of UCSB's most potent one-two punches when he combined with former linemate Rob Friend for 37 goals in 22 matches in 2002, the most ever by a pair of Gauchos. Well with two regular season games remaining, and in all likelihood a berth in the NCAA Tournament, McAthy has chance to put himself in the No. 2 spot playing alongside Neil Jones. Thus far in 2004 Jones and McAthy have combined for 22 goals in 18 matches after each tallied a one of the Santa Barbara's two game-winning goals last week. Currently second all-time in school history is Scott Grassinger and Eric Price's combined total of 26 set in 1982. After a rough start to the season for Jones scoring wise, the senior forward has tallied all of his Big West third-best nine goals over the last 12 games. Shooting at an astonishing .429 clip with six goals in conference play, Jones is now tied for fifth all-time in UCSB history with 27 career goals. Mixing him his 15 career assists, themselves three shy of the Gauchos' top ten all-time, the Kiwi is just one point shy of tying his former teammate, the aforementioned Friend, for fifth all-time in career scoring at 70.
NCAA Selection Show
Be sure to tune into ESPNews next Monday, November 15th for the 2004 NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Selection Show airing at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time to see who and where the Gauchos will be playing. UCSB has made the NCAA Tournament for two consecutive seasons. Advancing to the second round in 2002, its first-ever appearance in the tourney, with 2-0 home win over USD before losing 2-1 at Cal. And last year earning the No. 11 seed where it shutout Cal 2-0 at home in the second round before losing on the road to National Runner-Up St. John's 3-2 in double overtime.