17th-Ranked Gauchos Square Off with No. 20 Old Dominion Saturday in NCAA Tournament Third Round

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Nov. 17, 2006

The Schedule
NCAA Tournament Third Round
Saturday, November 19, 2006
No. 17 UC Santa Barbara (14-7-0) at No. 20 Old Dominion (15-5-1)
ODU Soccer Field • Kickoff 4:00 p.m. (PT)
***Match will air live on KCSB 91.9 in Santa Barbara***

How Sweet It Is
The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team put the college soccer world on notice Wednesday night with a shocking 3-1 upset of top-ranked and No. 3 seed Southern Methodist University at Westcott Field in Dallas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos, who had won only three times in eight games on the road this season, were not intimidated by a Mustang squad that was undefeated at home and had lost just once all season. UCSB took a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute when sophomore midfielder Eric Avila found a streaking Nick Perera, who collected the ball in full stride and slipped just inside the left post. The Mustangs responded with the equalizer at the 40:22 mark when Scott Corbin netted a sailing cross from Chase Wileman. The Gauchos were un-phased by SMU's score, however, and recaptured the lead and all the momentum less than three minutes later after freshman midfielder David Walker put in the rebound off a corner kick. The goal, which proved to be the game-winner, was the first collegiate score for Walker wearing the blue and gold and gave UCSB a 2-1 advantage at halftime. After several more quality scoring opportunities, Santa Barbara put the game out of reach in the second period after senior midfielder Bryan Byrne crossed to Avila in the box and Avila chipped it in with an open net for the final 3-1 advantage. UCSB dominated the ball for the duration of the match and out-shot the visitors 16-8. Senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish only needed three saves to lead the Gauchos to their seventh victory in the last eight matches. With the win, UCSB returns to the Sweet 16 after losing 3-2 at Big West rival Cal State Northridge in the second round last season. Santa Barbara enters Saturday's match with unseeded Old Dominion with a 14-7 overall record.

Scouting the Monarchs
• After knocking out the highest seed in their section of the bracket, the Gauchos will take on Old Dominion University Saturday in an NCAA Tournament Third Round match-up. This weekend's contest will mark just the 4th meeting between the two programs, with the Monarchs holding a slight 1-0-2 advantage in the all-time series.

• Old Dominion advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history after defeating No. 14 seed North Carolina 1-0 at Chapel Hill in the round of 32. Ranked 20th in the final NSCAA/adidas coaches' poll of the regular season, ODU defeated Winthrop 4-3 in a shootout last weekend in the first round of the Big Dance. Senior forward Edson Elcock is the man to watch on offense, leading the team with 11 goals and 6 assists, while sophomore midfielder Zachary Kinney found the net eight times in 2006. Colonial Athletic Association Defender of the Year David Horst anchors a backline that has given up 22 goals in 21 games this season. Freshman keeper Evan Newton has been very effective between the pipes, starting 16 games, with a 0.97 goals against average, 43 saves and seven shutouts.

2006 In Review
After losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, the Gauchos were not a exactly a favorite to return to the College Cup in 2006. Starting the season with a No. 23 NSCAA preseason ranking, UCSB opened with a bang embarrassing then-ranked No. 7 Akron 5-0, only to fall to No. 3 Virginia 1-0 two days later in the UVa Soccer Classic title game. From there Santa Barbara won four of its next five, with the only defeat coming to No. 18 Illinois at Chicago on a fluke goal with overtime just 31 seconds away. The Gauchos opened Big West Conference play with a 2-1 double overtime victory over Cal State Fullerton September 21, but then hit a rough stretch in which they dropped three of four, including a 5-0 blunder at BWC rival Cal State Northridge and a 3-1 defeat to then No. 7 UCLA in front of a record crowd of 5,475 at Harder Stadium in the Fox Soccer Channel's Match of the Week. UCSB bounced back with an impressive 2-0 win over No. 15 UC Irvine to move into first place in the league standings, but lost to UC Riverside for the first time in 32 years October 11. That loss would prove to be the Gauchos' wake up call, as they won five of their final six--including their first victory over the Matadors since November of 2004--to claim the Big West Conference title. Four of Santa Barbara's seven losses came to squads that were ranked in the NSCAA Top 25 at the time, with five of them coming to teams in the extremely strong Far West Region.

Poll Position
After winning the Big West crown November 4, UCSB enters postseason play with national ranking of No. 17 in the final Soccer America poll of the regular season, returning to the Top 25 following a month-long absence. The Gauchos appeared in the College Soccer News Top 30 two weeks ago, after winning five of six and are currently ranked No. 27 in this week's media poll. 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. Santa Barbara is not currently ranked in the NSCAA/adidas or Soccer Times coaches polls.

Another Busy November
This year's appearance marks the fifth consecutive time the Gauchos have qualified for the Big Dance. After Wednesday's victory over No. 1 SMU, UCSB is a combined 9-4-0 in NCAA Tournament play dating back to 2002, the first year it advanced to the postseason. With a .692 winning percentage in the playoffs, Santa Barbara has been very impressive in tournament openers under head coach Tim Vom Steeg. In fact, UCSB has been perfect, posting a 5-0-0 mark in opening (first or second) rounds of the tourney. The Gauchos topped San Diego 2-0 in the first round in 2002, downed Cal 2-0 in the second round of 2003 and beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2-1 in the second round two years ago. 2004 was definitely a year to remember, as the Gauchos were awarded the No. 9 seed and advanced to the National Championship match where they fell to Indiana 3-2 in penalty kicks to end the season as the National Runners-Up. Last season UCSB defeated SDSU 2-0 at Harder Stadium in the first round before falling 3-2 at Big West rival Cal State Northridge 3-2 in round two.

Gauchos on the Defensive
UCSB would have never advanced to the Sweet 16 without the strength of its defense. After the win over the Mustangs, 2006 Big West Conference Defender of the Year Andy Iro and the Gaucho backline has now limited the opposition to one goal or less in three straight games. In fact, one of the most common themes during the regular season has been the fact that when the Gauchos win, it is usually by a shutout. Entering the postseason, UCSB was playing near perfect defense and had recorded a shutout in five of its last six games--all of which were victories. Although they allowed two goals in the November 1 loss at 18th-ranked UC Irvine, the Gauchos bounced back and shut down UC Riverside in a 4-0 romp in the regular season finale. For the season, 11 of UCSB's 14 victories have been shutouts, with only Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State, and now SMU finding the net in a Gaucho win. With 11 no-nos in 19 regular season contests in 2006, Santa Barbara led the Big West Conference and ranked 8th nationally with a 0.58 shutout percentage.

Offense Finds Its Stride
While the defense has never been an issue this year, the Gaucho offense has had its difficulties finishing for much of the season. Entering Wednesday's second round showdown with No. 3 seed SMU, UCSB had scored six goals in the two games prior, including two against San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament First Round. Before the regular season finale--a 4-0 win over UC Riverside to clinch the Big West title--Santa Barbara had scored one goal or less in four straight matches and had found the net more than once only five times in 18 games. Since erupting against the Highlanders November 4, the offense has been firing on all cylinders and it was no different against Southern Methodist. UCSB scored three goals at SMU, a squad that had not allowed more than one in a game all season and given up a total of 11 entering Wednesday's contest.

Expect a Close One
For a team to be successful and advance deep into the NCAA Tournament, it is important to be able to win close games. UCSB has played a total of 21 games this season and 12 of those have been decided by a single goal. The Gauchos own an 8-4 mark in those matches, with three of the four losses coming on the road. Santa Barbara has dropped 1-0 decisions at then-ranked No. 3 Virginia August 27, at UC Davis September 23 and at UC Riverside October 11 and lost 2-1 to No. 18 UIC at Harder Stadium September 8. On the flip side, following the 2-1 victory over San Diego State in the first round, eight of UCSB's 12 victories have come by a one goal margin--five of them by a 1-0 count--so this year's team definitely has experience playing in close games. Old Dominion has played its share of close games as well, posting a 10-1 record in games decided by a single goal.

UCSB Collects Nine Conference Awards
When the annual all-conference teams and awards were announced Tuesday, the Gauchos were once again one of the Big West's most decorated squads. Highlighted by junior Andy Iro's second consecutive Defender of the Year award and senior Kyle Reynish's Co-Goalkeeper of the Year honors, a total of seven players were named to all-conference squads. In addition to Iro and Reynish, midfielders Bryan Byrne and Eric Avila were named to the first team, while midfielder Eric Frimpong, defender Jeff Murphy, and forward Bongomin Otii garnered second team accolades.

A Second Year Veteran
Sophomore midfielder Eric Avila has been on a tear as of late and has scored four goals in the last eight games. After he found the net twice in the Gauchos' season-opener against Akron, all signs pointed to the 2005 Big West Freshman of the Year having an amazing follow-up campaign as a sophomore. Like most of the squad in 2006, the San Diego native struggled to finish at times, but finally broke through with the game-winner against Cal Poly October 14 before scoring the game's only goal in a 1-0 win over Cal State Northridge 11 days later. Most recently, he put the finishing touches on UCSB's victory over SMU when he collected a cross from fellow midfielder Bryan Byrne and chipped it in with an open net to give Santa Barbara its final 3-1 advantage at the 75:40 mark. Avila was also credited with an assist on the Gauchos' first goal of the game after he found Nick Perera for the score in the 32nd minute. Avila leads the Gauchos with six goals, 53 shots, and a total of 16 points this season. One of only three players to start every game in 2006, UCSB is 5-0 when Avila shows up in the scoring column.

The Proclamation of Perera
Sophomore Nick Perera has had a breakout season for the Gauchos up front and he continues to make more and more of a name for himself as the season goes on. The forward is second on the squad with five goals this season after putting UCSB up early Wednesday against SMU. In the 32nd minute, Avila dribbled around two defenders before finding a streaking Perera in the box to his left. Perera collected the ball in full stride and slipped just past the Mustang keeper's grasp to the inside post. He also led the Gauchos offensively in the match with six shots, five of which were on frame. The native of Madrid, Spain. leads the team with two game-winning goals, the most recent coming when he tallied a pair in UCSB's 2-0 victory over then-ranked No. 15 UC Irvine to move into first place in the conference standings October 7. Perera also scored one of the Gauchos' four goals in the November 4th win over UC Riverside, collecting a cross from Chris Pontius and netting an arcing shot in the 38th minute.

He's A Keeper!
Senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has been the man all season between the posts and has been absolutely brilliant, playing every one of a possible 1918 plus minutes. The Valencia, Calif. native held UCSB's opponents scoreless six times in the final eight games of the regular season and has recorded a total of 11 shutouts in 2006. Two weeks removed from earning a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week and garnering Big West Player of the Week honors, Reynish made five saves against SDSU, including three very early on. In the win over the Mustang's, he needed only three stops to help lead the Gauchos' to their biggest victory in two years. Reynish's 11 shutouts in 19 games during the regular season was a new career-high and led the Big West Conference. In addition, the 2006 BWC Co-Goalkeeper of the Year ranked among the conference's top-two keeper's in virtually every statistical category, including goals against average (0.83), saves (74), and save percentage (.822).