UCSB Heads to St. Louis For Second College Cup Appearance In Three Years

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Nov. 28, 2006

This Week's Schedule

2006 NCAA Division I Men's College Cup
Robert R. Hermann Stadium • St. Louis, Mo.

Friday, December 1, 2006
Semifinal No. 1
UCLA (13-5-4) vs. Virginia (17-3-1)
Kickoff 3:00 p.m. (PST)
Match televised live on ESPN2

Semifinal No. 2
UC Santa Barbara (17-6-0) vs. Wake Forest (18-3-3)
Kickoff 5:30 p.m. (PST)
Match airs tape delayed at 11:00 p.m. Friday on ESPNU and 11:00 a.m. Saturday, December 2 on ESPN2

Sunday, Decmeber 3, 2006
National Championship
Kickoff 12:00 a.m. (PST)
Match televised live on ESPN2

Back For More
The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team will be making its second College Cup appearance in the last three years this weekend in St. Louis. After spending seven weeks with a No. 1 national ranking in 2004, the Gauchos steam-rolled through the postseason, posting wins over No. 27 UW-Milwaukee, No. 3 UNC Greensboro, and No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth to reach the program's first-ever College Cup. With a quasi-home field advantage in Carson, Calif., UCSB dismantled Duke 5-0 in the semifinals, before tying Indiana 1-1 and ultimately falling 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out in the national championship match. Returning to Division I soccer's final weekend once again in 2006, Santa Barbara has won nine of its last 10 behind an offense that has found its stride and a superb backline. The Gauchos enter Saturday's semifinal against Wake Forest with a 16-7 overall record.

Gauchos on the Tube
For the numerous members of the Gaucho faithful that will be unable to make the trek to St. Louis, there is good news. While nothing beats watching college soccer in person, Santa Barbara fans will have the opportunity to follow the Gauchos on television as long as they are still standing in this weekend's College Cup. Although Friday's opening match between UCLA and Virginia will air live on ESPN2 at 3:00 p.m. PST, UCSB's showdown with Wake Forest, scheduled to kickoff 46 minutes after the conclusion of the Bruins and Cavaliers' bout, will be broadcast tape delayed that night at 11:00 p.m. on ESPNU and then again Saturday, Dec. 2 at 11:00 a.m. on ESPN2. Sunday's final will air live on ESPN2 at 12:00 p.m. PST. Rob Stone will be handling the play-by-play, Eric Wynalda will be doing color commentary, and Quint Kessenich will be on the sidelines.

Don't Forget the Air & Web
In addition to watching the College Cup on the small screen, fans who want to catch the Gauchos take on the Demon Deacons live can tune in to KCSB 91.9 in Santa Barbara where the two hardest working guys in student radio will be calling the action as they have been all season long. Chris Hoffman and Alex Pavlovic will be in St. Louis broadcasting both matches, should UCSB make the final Sunday. Fans can also listen online by logging on to www.kcsb.org.

UCSB vs. the ACC
With the potential to face two schools from the Atlantic Coast Conference in three days this weekend, it is worth noting how UCSB has faired against college soccer's top conference in the past. The Gauchos own a 3-2-1 all-time record against teams from the ACC, with five of the six matches coming in the last four years. In September of 2003, UCSB won the Duke/adidas Soccer Classic with a 4-0 victory over North Carolina State and a 2-1 win over the host Blue Devils in the title game. Santa Babara met up with Duke again in the 2004 semifinal in Carson, Calif. and defeated the Blue Devils by a 5-0 margin on a pair of goals by Drew McAthy, as well as scores from Jonathan Davis, Tony Lochhead and Matt Bly. Lastly, the Gauchos have seen fellow College Cup participant Virginia twice in the last two years, and are 0-2-1 all-time against the Cavaliers. In 2005 UCSB and UVa battled to a 0-0 double overtime tie before Virginia won a 1-0 decision in this year's season-opening UVa Soccer Classic championship. Santa Barbara's first encounter with an ACC squad came back in 1985 when the Gauchos' roster against UVa featured a freshman by the name of Tim Vom Steeg. UCSB lost 2-0.

You Look Familiar
There is no doubt that UCSB faced a rather grueling schedule in 2006 and, as evidence to support that claim, consider this: Not only have the Gauchos faced two of their three fellow participants in this weekend's College Cup before, but they did so this season. Santa Barbara played both Virginia and UCLA as part of its non-conference slate and the finals would present a rematch, should the Gauchos get past Wake Forest. In the just the second game of the year, the Cavaliers' Yannick Reyering dished a ball to Jeremy Barlow for the only goal of the match as then-ranked No. 3 Virginia edged 21st-ranked UCSB 1-0 to claim its own UVa Soccer Classic crown Aug. 27. The Gauchos were out-shot 10-8 in that game, but held a 14-3 advantage in corner kicks. UCSB squared off with the then-seventh-ranked Bruins Oct. 5 in front of a record crowd of 5,475 at Harder Stadium in the Fox Soccer Channel's Match of the Week. Despite out-shooting the visitors 16-11, Michael Stephens, Jason Leopoldo, and David Estrada registered goals for UCLA, while Eric Frimpong was the lone Gaucho to find the net in the 3-1 loss. Although UCSB holds an 0-2 record against this year's College Cup field, I think we'd all agree the Gauchos are not the same team that they were in August or even October.

Chances are the Gauchos Have your Number
While the Gauchos have already seen Virginia and UCLA this season, Friday's semifinal against Wake Forest will mark the first-ever match-up between the two schools. Over the past three seasons, Santa Barbara has faired extremely well in contests in which it is facing an opponent for the first time. In fact, the Gauchos are a perfect 9-0 in such games since 2004, out-scoring the opposition by an incredible 28-3 margin. This year UCSB faced only one program for the first time and the result was the Gauchos' most lopsided victory of the season, a 5-0 victory over then-ranked No. 7 Akron to open the season.

There's No Place Like Santa Barbara
By now most of the collegiate soccer world has heard what its like to play in front of a raucous crowd at UCSB's Harder Stadium and there was good reason the Gauchos were thrilled to get to come home for the quarterfinals after two roads games in three days in the second and third rounds. Despite the fact that most of UC Santa Barbara's students were gone for the holiday weekend, the community came out in full force for UCSB's Elite Eight match with Northwestern last Saturday. A total of 8,874 - the largest crowd in the country in 2006 and second biggest in program history - were on hand as UCSB bounced back from a 2-1 halftime deficit to defeat the Wildcats 3-2 and advance to a second College Cup in three years. In 2004, a boisterous crowd of 11,215 witnessed the Gauchos bully Virginia Commonwealth 4-1 in the quarterfinals in what became the highest-attended NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Tournament game prior to the College Cup ever. In the Gauchos' first round match this season, 2,356 fans flocked to Harder, where UCSB defeated San Diego State 2-1 on Nov. 11. In two NCAA Tournament contests in 2006, the Gauchos had an average attendance of 5,615.

A Tale of Two Seasons
Saturday's 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Northwestern in the Elite Eight was the Gauchos' ninth win in their last 10 games and a season-high fifth straight. Santa Barbara's current five-game winning streak has come against teams that held a combined 59-33-12 record and the Gauchos have out-scored their last five opponents 14-5 to improve to a season-best nine games over the .500 mark at 16-7-0 overall. What makes UCSB's tournament run all the more impressive is the fact that at one point, the Gauchos had lost four of six and were sitting at 7-6 on Oct. 11. After a 1-0 loss at UC Riverside, the coaching staff issued a challenge to the players and they have responded, winning every game since with the exception of a 2-0 loss to a very good UC Irvine team Nov. 1.

Hit `Em Hard, Hit `Em Early
While UCSB has won a season-best five in a row, the Gauchos' formula for success during the postseason has not been all that different from that of the regular season. With the exception of the 2-1 comeback victory over San Diego State in the opening round, UCSB has struck first in all of its tournament matches this season and wasted little time doing so. In Santa Barbara's 3-1 win over top-ranked SMU, sophomore forward Nick Perera put the Gauchos on the board in the 32nd minute. Three days later, the native of Madrid, Spain gave UCSB a 1-0 lead at Old Dominion, scoring on the game's first shot at the 6:11 mark. Finally, junior midfielder Tyler Rosenlund punched in the first of his three goals against Northwestern just 9:20 into the match in the 3-2 win last weekend. Drawing first blood has been absolutely critical for the Gauchos this season. They are 15-1 in 2006 when scoring first, with their only loss coming against then-ranked No. 18 Illinois at Chicago Sept. 8. Conversely, UCSB is just 1-6 when its opponents strike first, with the lone win coming three weeks ago against SDSU.

Sometimes Its Good to be Greedy
Continuing to examine the Gauchos' offense, it is definitely fair to say that the Santa Barbara attack is as potent now as it has been at any point this season after recording three goals for the second time in the NCAA Tournament. UCSB has now scored 10 goals in four postseason contests so far - the most of any of the four College Cups participants - for an average of 2.50 goals per game. That number is well above the 1.32 goals per game average the Gauchos held during the regular season after scoring 25 goals in 19 matches. Santa Barbara, a team that scored one goal or less in 13 games during the regular season, has now found the net at least twice in five straight. In 2006, UCSB is a perfect 10-0 in matches in which the offense scores two or more goals.

Seedless Fortunes
When the Gauchos made their postseason run and finished as the national runners up in 2004, they did so as a No. 9 seed, the highest in school history, and received a first round bye. Although that team had to handle the pressure of the expectations that come with entering the tournament with a No. 1 ranking, one could make a very compelling argument that this year's team has had a more impressive run. Unranked for much of the season, the 2006 squad did not have the luxury of a first round bye and, although they were awarded a home game, the Gauchos had to beat a very talented San Diego State team in the first round. From there, UCSB faced top-ranked and No. 3 seed Southern Methodist at Westcott Field in Dallas, where the Mustangs had yet to lose in 2006. After shocking everyone with a 3-1 upset over heavily favored SMU, the Gauchos flew directly to Norfolk, Va., where they defeated a scrappy Old Dominion squad 2-1. The 2004 squad had to win one less game - on the road, no less - to reach the College Cup.

A Few Good Men
With the UCSB men's soccer team one win away from a return to the national championship stage, it has been the defense that has been a constant all season. Posting a total of 11 shutouts in 2006, fourth in Division I, and averaging one almost every two games, the defensive unit of Jeff Murphy, Andy Iro, Greg Curry, Brennan Tennelle and goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has been getting it done all season. Currently sporting a combined 0.90 goals against average, UCSB's stellar defense has given up 21 goals in 23 contests, a total that ranks 9th in program history. In fact, the Gauchos held their opponents scoreless in five of their last six regular season games - all of which were victories. While UCSB has given up a goal in all four of its postseason wins this year, including two against the Wildcats, the Gauchos have held the opposition to one goal or less in 10 of their last 12 matches.

2006 Regualar Season 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 against 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 Sept. 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 home loss to then-No. 7 UCLA. 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.

UCSB Collects Nine Conference Awards
When the annual all-conference teams and awards were announced Tuesday, Nov. 7, 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.

We Belong
After winning the Big West crown Nov. 4, UCSB is making its postseason run with a national ranking of No. 17, coming in the final Soccer America poll. The Gauchos returned to the Top 25 in the regular season's final week following a month-long absence. Santa Barbara appeared in the final College Soccer News poll, after winning five of its final six games and was ranked No. 27 in the Top 30. UCSB 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 Sept. 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 did not appear in the final NSCAA/adidas or Soccer Times coaches polls.

A Measure of Experience
For a team to be successful and advance deep into the NCAA Tournament, as the Gauchos have done in 2006, it is important to be able to win close games. After defeating Northwestern 3-2 in the Elite Eight last Saturday, UCSB has played a total of 23 matches this season, with 14 of those coming down to a one goal decision. The Gauchos own an 10-4 mark in those contests, with three of the four losses coming on the road. Santa Barbara dropped 1-0 decisions at then-ranked No. 3 Virginia Aug. 27, at UC Davis Sept. 23 and at UC Riverside Oct. 11 and lost 2-1 to No. 18 UIC at Harder Stadium Sept. 8. On the flip side, 10 of UCSB's 16 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.

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