No. 14 UCSB Hosts No. 22 SDSU in First Round of NCAA Tournament
This Week's Schedule
Saturday, November 19th
No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (12-4-3) vs. No. 22 San Diego State (9-3-7)
UCSB's Harder Stadium Kickoff 1:00 p.m.
UCSB finished the regular season strong, taking care of business against UC Riverside and UC Irvine. The Gauchos entered last week's action in third place in the Big West Conference standings and needed victories in both contests to secure a second place finish, earning at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. And they did just that, defeating the Highlanders 3-1 in Riverside November 9th as Andrew Proctor, Brennan Tennelle and Alfonso Motagalvan all netted their first goals of the season. They then dominated the Anteaters 2-0 behind stellar play from Tyler Rosenlund who scored the game winner and picked up the assist on the Gauchos' second goal. The Gauchos won five of their last six matches, outscoring their opponents 12-4 during that span, with their only loss coming November 2nd in Northridge. UCSB enters postseason play with a 12-4-3 overall record and finished second in the Big West at 7-1-2.
Rackin' `Em Up
A school-record nine players earned All-Big West Conference honors this season, tying the total set forth in 2002 and 2003. Highlighted by sophomore Andy Iro's second consecutive Defender of the Year honors, a total of six players were named to the first time, all-time high at UCSB. Midfielder Eric Avila, who was the third Gaucho in the last four years to be recognized as the Freshman of the Year, midfielder Tyler Rosenlund, midfielder Nate Boyden, defender Pat Scott, forward Ivan Becerra, and Iro were Santa Barbara's six first teamers. Garnering second team honors for UCSB was defender Chris Hughes, goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, and forward Bryan Byrne. The Gauchos posted a conference-best 0.80 goals against average and +1.16 scoring margin. Head coach Tim Vom Steeg was selected at the Big West's Coach of the Year for the second straight season, sharing the honor with conference champion Cal State Northridge's Terry Davila.
San Diego State Game Capsule
UCSB's quest to return to the College Cup starts with a match against San Diego State this Saturday. The Gauchos, who open the NCAA Tournament at home for the fourth year in a row, trail the all-time series with the Aztecs 9-17-3, but have won the last three meetings. Santa Barbara won 3-1 in San Diego in 2001 and shutout the Aztecs 3-0 in 2002 at Harder Stadium. The Gauchos faced SDSU in last year's season opener and won 1-0 in San Diego on a Drew McAthy goal in the last matchup between the two programs.
The Aztecs finished the regular season with a 9-3-7 overall record and a 2-3-6 mark and fourth place finish in the Pac Ten. SDSU, who is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1989, has one of the nation's stingiest defenses, ranking second in the nation in goals against average (0.46) and fourth in shutout percentage (0.67). Offensively, the Aztecs have tallied 20 goals this season compared to only nine for their opponents. Senior forward Heath Creager directs the Anteater offense, leading the team with 14 points on six goals and two assists, while sophomore midfielder Kraig Chiles leads the squad with seven goals and 52 shots. Anchoring the defense is junior keeper Tally Hall, who has started every game between the pipes and posts a very impressive 0.41 goals against average and 76 saves.
Unseeded in this year's tournament, the winner of the UCSB/SDSU matchup will go on to face the No. 15 seed Cal State Northridge on Tuesday, November 22nd at 1:00 p.m. at CSUN's Matador Soccer Field.
Looking Back Before Looking Ahead
Coming off of the best season in Gaucho soccer history in 2004, expectations were very high for UC Santa Barbara in 2005. Starting the season with a No. 4 NSCAA preseason ranking, the highest in program history, the Gauchos got off to a rocky 0-1-1 start falling to then 20th-ranked Cal, before tying No. 6 Virginia. From there, Santa Barbara took off, winning six of its next seven with the lone setback coming in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of WCC power Loyola Marymount. The Gaucho defense was very strong against then No. 11 UCLA, limiting the Bruins to only two shots on goal in a tough 1-0 loss October 20th. The Big West Conference was as hotly contested this year as it has been the previous four seasons and its top two squads, Cal State Northridge and UCSB battled to a 2-2 draw October 8th in Harder Stadium. The Gauchos fell into second place in the conference standings after a 2-2 tie with UC Irvine October 14th and saw their second-straight Big West title hopes slip away after a 1-0 defeat in Northridge November 2nd, their lone loss in conference play. The Gauchos won five of their last six contests, including victories over UC Riverside and UC Irvine last week to wrap up a second place finish in the BWC. Overall, 2005 was a successful season for UCSB, with three of the Gauchos' four losses coming against teams that are currently ranked in the Top 20 of the NSCAA/adidas coaches' poll (UCLA and Cal are in the Top 10). All four losses have come against teams in the extremely strong Far West region and with the exception of Santa Barbara's 2-0 season-opening loss to the Golden Bears, their other three losses on the year were by a one-goal margin on the road. While the Gauchos have much to smile about looking back on the regular season, their story has just begun to unfold as the NCAA Tournament gets underway this Saturday.
The Rankings Game
After wrapping up the regular season with victories over Riverside and Irvine, UCSB enters postseason play with a national ranking of 21 in the current NSCAA/adidas Coaches' poll, up three spots from last week's position of 24. This marks the seventh consecutive week that Santa Barbara has been in the Top 25 in the coaches' poll. Last week's strong finish also helped the Gauchos climb to the No. 15 spot in the Soccer Times coaches' poll, up two spots from the 17th position they held a week ago. In the media polls, UCSB comes in at 14 in the College Soccer News Top 30 National Poll.
That Special Time of Year
The Gauchos will be making their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this weekend when they square off with San Diego State Saturday. UCSB is a combined 6-3-0 in NCAA Tournament play dating back to 2002, the first season it qualified for the Big Dance and has been very impressive in tournament openers. In fact, Santa Barbara has been perfect, posting a 3-0-0 mark in opening rounds (first or second) 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 last season's second round. 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 tied Indiana 1-1 after two overtime periods, before falling 3-2 in penalty kicks to end the season as the National Runners-Up.
It Must Be The Home Cookin'
While 2005 marks UCSB's fourth-straight appearance in the Big Dance, this is also the fourth year in a row that it will play a tournament game within the friendly confines of Harder Stadium. Not only have the Gauchos been perfect in NCAA Tournament openers the previous three seasons, but they have also been flawless at home in tournament play. Hosting a game each year that they have qualified for the postseason, the Gauchos hold a 4-0-0 record and look to continue the streak this weekend when the Aztecs come to town. In its first-ever tournament game, Santa Barbara defeated San Diego 2-0 in front of over 4000 strong on goals by Rob Friend and Matt Bly in 2002. Two years ago, the Gauchos blanked Cal 2-0 on Jeff Murphy and Tony Lochhead goals in front of a Harder Stadium crowd of around 1500. Finally, in last year's magical run, after a 2-1 double overtime win over UWM in the second round, a school-record 11, 214 fans watched UCSB crush Virginia Commonwealth 4-1 as Bryan Byrne, Andrew Proctor and Andy Iro (twice) found the net. Harder Stadium has not been an easy place for opponents to play and if the last three years are any indication, the Gauchos have to like their chances going into Saturday's match.
While the 2005 Gauchos were considered young and inexperienced at the start of the season with a limited number of overall games played under their belts, they are an extremely experienced NCAA Tournament squad. Going into Saturday's match, UCSB roster has a combined 43 tournament games played between them, with senior All-Big West midfielder Nate Boyden leading the way with seven career NCAA Tournament matches played. And it is not just as if these appearances where in "garbage" time late in the game, of the 43 combined appearances 27 of them are starts, over fifty percent. Bryan Bryne, Jonathan Davis, Tyler Rosenlund, Andy Iro, Nate Boyden each have five tourney starts in their career, Jeff Murphy has two. Andrew Proctor has also made five tournament showings, all off the bench, and Becerra has played in four games coming off the bench. Chris Hughes has appeared in three tournament matches, while Brennan Tennelle and Kyle Reynish have each made the box score in one. Of this group, they have combined for six goals in postseason play, led by Davis and Iro with two apiece, and followed by Proctor and Byrne with one each. Byrne also has one NCAA Tournament assist, but it is Becerra's two that are tops in the team, although he should have three, it was a rebound off his shot that Drew McAthy scored on in the National Championship game. Needless to say, this team knows what it is like to not only play, but excel, under the pressure that is the NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship.
Byrnin' the Opposition
Senior midfielder Bryan Byrne is one of only two Gauchos to have started all 19 matches this season. Finishing the regular season seventh in the Big West averaging 0.84 points per game, Byrne has proven to be one of UCSB's biggest and most consistent offensive weapons. Leading the team and ranking second in conference with six assists, he is also second on the team, and ninth in the Big West, with five goals. In fact, he is one of only two players in the BWC with at least five goals and five assists. The Castledermot, Ireland native notched his sixth assist of the season against UC Riverside November 9 when he fed Andrew Proctor for the Gauchos' first score in the 22nd minute. Byrne, who is listed as a senior but will be returning for a fourth and final season in 2006, was named to this year's All-Big West Conference Second Team on Tuesday.
Freshman midfielder Eric Avila has more than met expectations this year and was recognized as the 2005 Freshman of the Year by the Big West Conference, carrying the torch lit by Andy Iro last season. The U.S. Under-17 National Team standout has definitely been a key member of the Gaucho offense this season and is currently third on the team with 11 points, three goals and five assists, and is just one of two Gauchos to start every game this season. UCSB has a 7-0-1 record when the San Diego native shows up in the scoring column. Avila created a number of quality scoring opportunities against the Anteaters and had two good looks himself, but was denied on great saves from the UCI keeper. He recorded a total of five shots in the two contests against Riverside and Irvine last week and ranks ninth in the Big West with 37 total shots and a 1.95 shots per game average. His five assists are tied for third in the conference.
He's A Keeper!
Junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has been getting the job done all season long between the pipes, and has stepped up as a leader in the UCSB backfield. He has played every one of the total 1790 minutes in goal in 2005 and has recorded 57 saves, which is the fourth-most in the Big West. Reynish leads the conference with a 0.80 goals against average and boasts a .781 save percentage, which is second. His eight shutouts this year, which ranks as the third-best season ever for a UCSB keeper, also leads the conference. The Valencia, Calif. native only had to make one save in last Saturday's win over UC Irvine and held the Anteaters scoreless for his eighth shutout of the year. Reynish, who joins teammates Bryan Byrne and Chris Hughes on the 2005 All-Big West Second Team, has now held the opposition to one goal or less in 14 of UCSB's 19 matches.
A True No. 10
All-Big West First Team selection Tyler Rosenlund returned to the starting lineup last week against UC Riverside and UC Irvine and had a very impressive showing. The Canadian Youth National Team star scored the game-winner and then added an assist propelling the Gauchos to a 2-0 win over visiting UC Irvine Saturday. Rosenlund netted his second game-winning goal of the season when he chipped the ball over the Anteater goalkeeper in the 47th minute to put UCSB on top for good 1-0. Later in the contest, Rosenlund helped put the match out of reach for UCI, when he sent a curling cross to a charging Jonathan Davis on the backpost, who knocked down the pass and scored in the 87th minute for the final 2-0 score. The Port Coquitlam, B.C. native is now fourth on the team with 11 points off three goals and five assists and was named the Big West Co-Player of the Week and the Macy's/ucsbgauchos.com athlete of the week for his performance against UCI.
That's More Like It
It was touched on in last week's release about how successful UCSB is when scoring the first goal, and last week's performances proved just that. Playing with a new starting lineup not seen all season, the Gauchos put together three of their best halves of play all season, jumping out to an early lead at UC Riverside and dominating UC Irvine. And in both matches, Santa Barbara netted the first goal of the game. With the loss two weeks ago to Cal State Northridge after allowing the matches' only goal less than 14 minutes in, UCSB rebounded against UCR with their first goal in the 22nd minute in the 3-1 win off the foot of Andrew Proctor. It took a little longer against UCI, but Tyler Rosenlund netted what proved to be the game-winner in the 47th in the Gauchos' 2-0 win. UCSB is now 11-1-0 when they hit the scoreboard first, as opposed to 1-3-2 when their opponents do. And although it is just one weekend, it appears by the performance they gave outshooting the opposition 35-13, that the Gauchos are turning the tide in their favor. Prior to last week, UCSB's opposition held the advantage in first goals scored at 5-3 in its last eight games played, a streak in which it went 4-2-2, yet it held the lead for just 76:04 of 779:19 minutes played (9.8%). However, in its first nine games of the season, Santa Barbara scored the matches first goal in seven, winning all seven matches and going 7-1-1, which is what the last two week are more inline with. Going back to UCSB's match with Cal State Fullerton, it has scored the first goal in three of the last four, going 3-1 with the lone loss being the 1-0 affair at Northridge. Of the last 360:00 minutes played, the Gauchos have held the lead for 154:47, or 43.0% of the time, a stark contrast to what they entered last week with. And on the flip side, they have trailed just 76:21 minutes (21.2%), also a big change from the 38.2% of the time they had been trailing in their previous eight matches before last week.
Stuff That Wins Championships
The strength of UCSB's defense has been a major factor in the Gauchos becoming one of the nation's premier programs, and 2005 squad has been no different. Although this year's defense unit has featured a number of different players, as opposed to recent years where it seemed as if the same four of five players played every minute of every match, it has proven to be just as stout. Having suited up the same starting lineup in consecutive weeks just once this season, the D-unit has allowed just 16 goals this year, boasting an average of just 0.80 goals allowed per game, currently the fourth best mark in school history. In fact, since the Big West reinstated men's soccer and UCSB broke onto the national scene in 2000, only last year's 0.56 opponent goals per game average is better than this team's current mark. Sporting a conference-best goals against average of 0.80, junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and the rest of the defense are flirting with the nation's top 20 which currently sits at 0.73 GAA. In the regular season, the Gaucho defense limited the opposition to a meager .088 shot percentage, allowing just 34.8% of the opposition's 63 total shots to reach the frame. Of Santa Barbara's current starting defenders, senior defensive midfielder Nate Boyden and sophomore Preseason All-American Andy Iro have started all but one of the Gauchos' 19 regular season matches, the most among Santa Barbara's defensive players, helping both to earn First Team All-Big West Honors. They were both serving red card suspensions during UCSB's 0-0 tie against then No. 6, and current No. 17, Virginia September 4. Last week's defense combined to limit the opposition to a meager combined three shots on goal and 13 shots overall.
The Century Mark
As if head coach Tim Vom Steeg has not had enough feathers placed in his cap in the recent years, two consecutive Big West Coach of the Year awards, the 2004 NSCAA National Coach of the Year can reach a historic milestone this weekend. In addition to trying to make it four-for-four in NCAA Tournament-opening games, Vom Steeg can pick up his 100th career victory as the head coach at UCSB. Entering this season as the Gauchos ninth winningest active coach in Division one, his 100th win has the possibility of coming in just his seventh season. Currently he holds a 99-37-10 career record with the Gauchos for a .763 winning percentage, well better than any other coach in school history, the next highest is Andy Kuenzli at .586, Vom Steeg's coach when he was a player at UCSB. In fact, when the Gauchos top UC Davis 3-2 in week nine Vom Steeg past Kuenzli for the most wins in school history, eclipsing the previous high of 95.
Silencing the Critics
Much of season, those in the college soccer community always seemed to comment on the physical nature of UCSB's play in leading it to the national title match. Well this season, Vom Steeg and the Gauchos have proved that they have the skill to put those comments to rest, succeeding without same physical play that so many clamored about. Last year, Santa Barbara had a combined four yellow card accumulation suspensions, this year they have had zero. And although they have had three red cards issued to them, two coming in the first match of the season, it is half of last year's total of six. Altogether, UCSB has received a combined 35 yellow this season, one LESS than the opposition's total of 36. Red cards are even at 3-3.