Gauchos Kick Off Season with Pair of Home Matches

Photo by Eric Isaacs
Photo by Eric Isaacs

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The Schedule
Friday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. St. John's (N.Y.)
All-time record vs. the Red Storm: 0-2
Last meeting: Sept. 12, 2017 - SJU def. UCSB, 2-1
Video: BigWest.TV
Live Stats:

Sunday, Aug. 26 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Riverside
All-time record vs. the Highlanders: 25-5-2
Last meeting: Nov. 1, 2017 - UCR def. UCSB, 1-0 (BWT)
Video: BigWest.TV
Live Stats:

Video Stream Available will offer a live video broadcast of both Friday and Sunday's matches through Big West TV. Gerry Fall, Voice of the Gauchos, will be on hand for play-by-play duty and a link to the broadcast can be found on the UCSB men's soccer schedule page or by clicking here.

College Cup Tickets on Sale Now!
UC Santa Barbara hosts the 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Soccer College Cup on Dec. 7 and 9 at Harder Stadium. College Cup ticket packages as well as UCSB season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online or by calling the UCSB Athletics Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB.

UCSB Shines in Westmont Exhibition
After being stunned by the Warriors last season for the first time since 2000, the Gauchos bounced back in a big way with a 7-0 victory over Westmont to reclaim the Bryant and Sons Cup in the 56th annual meeting. Ignacio Tellechea and newcomer Thibault Candia both tallied two goals apiece while Axel Mendez, Carter Clemmensen and Mateo Restrepo Mejia also scored. Both Candia and Rodney Michael led the way with two assists apiece while Noah Billingsley, Oscar Ferreira and Clemmensen also added assists in the match. 

Into the Storm
The Gauchos welcome St. John's to Harder Stadium for their season-opener on Friday night. It will be the third ever meeting between the two programs with the Red Storm having won both previous matches, a 3-2 double overtime victory in the Sweet 16 of the 2003 NCAA Tournament and a 2-1 triumph in New York last season. Rodney Michael scored for the Gauchos in the match. 

Riverside Rematch
The Highlanders won their first ever Big West Tournament match last season at the Gauchos' expense, upsetting the No. 2 seed with a heartbreaking goal in the 88th minute to come away with a 1-0 victory. UCSB will seek redemption in the second game of the season, which will be designated as a non-conference match, and look to return to its dominance against Riverside as the Gauchos hold a 25-5-2 all-time series advantage. 

Home Sweet Home
Last season UCSB fared much better inside the friendly confines of Harder Stadium. The Gauchos went unbeaten in eight of their 10 home matches during the regular season (4-2-4) and historically boast a .720 winning percentage (138-46-25) in the Tim Vom Steeg era (since 1999). 

Opening Act
The Gauchos have gone 14-2-3 during Tim Vom Steeg's tenure in season openers. In the past 10 years, they have lost just one opener, an overtime loss to Cal State Bakersfield in 2010. UCSB is unbeaten in its past seven openers, winning six in a row (at Northwestern, at LMU, vs. Seattle. at College of Charleston, at Stanford, vs. Oakland at Ohio State) before settling for a scoreless draw against St. Mary's last season. UCSB has outscored its opponents 14-4 in those games.

Vom Steeg Eyeing No. 250
As he enters his 20th season at the helm of the Gauchos, head coach Tim Vom Steeg is two wins away from reaching No. 250 for his career. With a 248-113-46 (.666) career record, Vom Steeg is far and away the all-time program leader in wins, totaling nearly half of UCSB's all-time 501victories. 

Top Praise from Top Drawer 
UCSB was recently mentioned by TopDrawerSoccer.Com as one of 14 teams named as NCAA Division I title contenders in 2018. The Gauchos also had two players recognized among its National Top 100 list, with Faouzi Taieb coming in at No. 55 and Rodney Michael at No. 79. Within the Big West, TopDrawer ranks six Gauchos in the Top 20 with Taieb at No. 2, Michael at No. 3, Ignacio Tellechea at No. 5, Carson Vom Steeg at No. 9, Alan Carrillo at No. 10 and Adrian Adames at No. 19. 

2017 in Review
The Gauchos got off to a slow start in 2017 after dealing with a handful of injuries and a host of new talent trying to find a rhythm together on the pitch. UCSB did not score until the third match of the season and got off to an 0-2-4 start. From there, however, the Gauchos began to find their groove and won five consecutive matches, including three to start Big West Conference play. After putting together a 4-3-3 record in conference, good enough for the No. 2 seed in the Big West Tournament, the Gauchos dropped a heartbreaker, 1-0, to UC Riverside in the first round at Harder Stadium to see their season come to a close.  

Preseason Poll
UCSB was tabbed to finish second in the Big West this season after the annual Preseason Coaches' Poll was released on Thursday. The Gauchos received 55 points and three first-place votes, coming a close second to reigning Big West Tournament champion Cal State Fullerton, who received 57 points and four first-place votes. CSUN (47) came in third, while UC Davis (40) was picked fourth and received the lone remaining first-place vote. UC Irvine (30), Sacramento State (23), UC Riverside (21) and Cal Poly (15) rounded out the rest of the poll. After being split into the North and South divisions for the past six seasons, the Big West will return to a single division for 2018 and beyond.

Preseason All-Conference Team Features Pair of Gauchos
Sophomore Rodney Michael, the 2017 Big West Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Big West selection, and junior Noah Billingsley, who recently made his debut with the New Zealand National Team, were both selected to the 2018 Big West Preseason All-Conference Team. Michael, a native of Freetown, Sierra Leone, paced the Gauchos last season with eight goals and four assists as a freshman and will look to lead the offense once again this fall. Billingsley, who earned the preseason honor for the second season in a row, recorded two goals and two assists last year and will continue to be a threat in the attacking third.

Key Returners
The Gauchos have an abundance of experience in 2018 with 18 student-athletes returning, including 10 starters. In addition to Michael and Billingsley, 2017 Big West All-Freshman Team selection Alan Carrillo returns between the sticks as does all-conference defender Adrian Adames. On the attacking front, Ignacio Tellechea (4g, 3a) provides a strong finishing presence, and all but one goal scorer from a year ago returns. Junior forward Sahid Conteh (1g, 0a) and Derek Kryzda (1g, 1a) add to the talented offensive unit, while Jan Ilskens, Giovanny Acosta, Kavian Kashani and Mateo Restrepo Mejia all return after starting at least 10 matches last fall and will bolster the defense and midfield. After playing in only four matches due to injury in 2017, talented attacking midfielder and donning the No. 10 jersey this fall, Joseph Ammer will be a key piece of the puzzle. Also, considering him a returner, Axel Mendez makes his return to the roster after last playing for the Gauchos in 2014 when he was named Big West Freshman of the Year.  

All in the Family
Carson Vom Steeg, a current USA youth international player, 2017 NCAA Champion at Stanford and son of UC Santa Barbara head coach Tim Vom Steeg, will return home and play for the Gauchos this fall. The second eldest of Tim Vom Steeg's four sons, Carson will carry on the family tradition as the third Vom Steeg to play for UCSB. He will follow in the footsteps of his older brother Justin, who led the Gauchos to the Round of 16 in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and is currently playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy, as well as his father/coach Tim, who was a four-year letterwinner from 1985-88. Carson played in 18 games as a freshman defender at Stanford and is currently a member of the US Men's National Team U20 player pool.

He's One to Watch
Junior defender Faouzi Taieb (Marseille, France/St. Francis Brooklyn) was one of 32 players named to the prestigious MAC Hermann Watch List, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding male and female players of the year. Before he has even played a game for UCSB, Taieb becomes the eighth Gaucho all-time to be named to the watch list joining Tyler Rosenlund (2005), Andy Iro (2006, 2007), Eric Avila (2007), Chris Pontius (2008), Sam Garza (2011), Ismalia Jome (2014) and Nick DePuy (2016). Taieb was a sensational defender the past two seasons for St. Francis Brooklyn, earning NEC Defensive Player of the Year accolades as a sophomore and NEC Rookie of the Year as a freshman.  

Incoming Talent
In addition to Carson Vom Steeg and Faouzi Taieb, the Gauchos bolster its backline with the addition of sophomore defender Hunter Ashworth (Laguna Beach, Calif./San Francisco). Standing 6-foot-5, Ashworth has been a key player for the New Zealand U20 National Team and adds more depth to a talented Gauchos' defense. Thibault Candia (Nantes, France/Temple) is another talented transfer that will add playmaking ability to the UCSB offense showcased by his six goals and assist in 18 games at Temple last fall. Incoming prep stars include local product Ben Roach (Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Barbara High School) and Carter Clemmensen (Paradise Valley, Ariz./Brophy College Preparatory). Roach was named the 2018 CIF Player of the Year after leading Santa Barbara High School to the CIF Southern Section Championship. Clemmensen, meanwhile, is a goal scoring machine who racked up 114 in his career and was recently named the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year.  

Need a Lyft?
Lyft, the fastest growing rideshare company in the U.S., announced today that it will become the first rideshare company to sponsor the UCSB athletic seasons from Fall 2018 through Fall 2021.The three-year partnership begins during this weekend's men's soccer game versus Westmont on Saturday, Aug. 18 at Harder Stadium and will feature an exclusive Lyft pick-up and drop-off area at the Stadium Road entrance. Giveaways, discounted rides and fun Gaucho-themed activities are some of the additional perks that Lyft passengers will experience during each athletic season.