Back in Top 25, Gauchos Look to Finish Non-Conference Play on a High Note

(Photo by Eric Isaacs)
(Photo by Eric Isaacs)
 
The Schedule
Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m
No. 18 UC Santa Barbara at No. 27 San Diego (7-1-0)
All-time record vs. the Toreros (W-L-T): 13-7-0
Last meeting: Sept. 2, 2017: San DIego 1, UCSB 0
 
Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. (Blue-Green Rivalry, non-conference)
No. 18 UC Santa Barbara vs Cal Poly (4-3-0)
All-time record vs. the Mustangs (W-L-T): 47-20-10
Last meeting: October 27, 2018: UCSB 2, Cal Poly 0
 
• Video Streams Available
The match between the Gauchos and Toreros on Tuesday evening will be available to watch on the WCC Network, produced by Pacific and the West Coast Conference. A link to the broadcast is posted on the men's soccer schedule page.
 
UCSBGauchos.com will offer a live video broadcast of the Cal Poly game on Saturday through Big West TV and on the @UCSBMensSoccer Twitter account. The "Voice of the Gauchos" Gerry Fall will be on play-by-play duties, while current Gaucho athlete Carson vom Steeg will be providing color commentary throughout the broadcast. An audio-only stream will be available via KCSB-FM 91.9, UCSB's student radio station. Links to all broadcasts can be found on the UCSB men's soccer schedule page.
 
• Audio Stream Available
Additionally, an audio-only broadcast of the matchup between UCSB and San Diego on Tuesday will be available on UCSBGauchos.com on the men's soccer schedule page. Sports Information Director Arthur Wilkie will handle the play-by-play during the broadcast.
 
• Tweet Tweet!
Follow the @UCSBMensSoccer account on Twitter for live tweets and highlights from both games this week.
 
• The Gaucho Rewind, Matchdays 8 and 9
UCSB took to the road on Wednesday, Sept. 25 as they battled Pacific in Stockton. First half goals from Will Baynham and Finn Ballard McBride, as well as an incredible 75th minute save from Ben Roach, helped extend the Gauchos' win streak to five games. Santa Barbara returned home on Saturday for their highly-anticipated matchup with the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal, and they shocked the defending Pac-12 champions by scoring two goals in the opening 20 minutes of play, with the goals once again provided by the Australian duo of Ballard McBride and Baynham. Stanford pulled a goal back in the 43rd minute, and then scored the equalizer in the 49th. The Gauchos would respond with a distanced effort from Rodney Michael that rocketed into the upper middle left of the net. UCSB was under six minutes away from stunning the visitors, but Stanford was able to send the game into overtime with a Charlie Wehan goal. Neither team found the golden goal in overtime, and UCSB centerback Faouzi Taieb suffered a major injury in the first overtime after defending a corner kick.
 
Sam Fletcher made his first career start for the Gauchos in the draw, providing an aggressive presence in the midfield alongside Sahid Conteh and earning praise from head coach Tim Vom Steeg after the game.
 
• Midweek Competition and Weekend Rivalry
UCSB marks its return to top 25 with a pair of difficult matches this week. Tim Vom Steeg's side was ranked 18th in the Top Drawer Soccer poll, marking the first time the Gauchos have been fully ranked since 2016. History has been kind to UCSB against both San Diego and Cal Poly, but it hasn't always been smooth riding against these two foes. It was a very different story the last time the Gauchos played the Toreros, as both teams were still in search of their first wins of the season early on in the year. Miguel Berry scored in the 17th minute to put San Diego ahead, and UCSB wasn't able to match that. The best chance for the equalizer came with just five seconds left in regulation, as IgnacioTellechea's shot off a rebound from a shot off the crossbar was headed away to safety. 
 
Games between UCSB and Cal Poly are always tough and intense, and it was no different when the Gauchos defeated Cal Poly 2-0 last year in the final game of the conference season. With the Gauchos hoping a win would get them into a top-two seed for a bye into the conference tournament semifinals, Sahid Conteh's 50th minute strike fired UCSB into the lead and Kaya Fabbretti doubled it ten minutes later, as UCSB beat Cal Poly in front of 7, 318 fans. It was the Gauchos' second win over Cal poly in eight tries since Steve Sampson took over the program in 2015 (2-3-3). As was the case last year, this match will not count towards the Big West standings, but the final match of the conference season at Cal Poly will.
 
The Gauchos have a chance to extend their unbeaten run to eight games if they get a result from both matches, which would tie the program record for ninth-longest unbeaten streak.
 
• Scouting the Opposition: San Diego
After facing a Stanford defense that had only allowed two goals all season prior to their tilt with the Gauchos, UCSB now faces a San Diego team that has only given up four goals en route to six clean sheets in eight games. Their only loss in the 2019 campaign was to Sacramento State, who scored on either side of a Miguel Berry free kick to beat San Diego at home. Miguel Berry scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season in the Toreros' latest win over UC Riverside. He also leads San Diego in assists with three. Matt Wiher has made 23 saves on 27 shots on goal out of 71 shots faced. The Toreros are preparing to face their sixth Big West opponent of the season, having already taken down Cal Poly, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UC Riverside.
 
• Scouting the Opposition: Cal Poly
All of the Mustangs' four wins have come in the past five games, with notable wins including Gonzaga (3-1) and then-No. 24 Loyola Marymount (2-1, OT). However, the other two wins have come against non-Division I opponents Fresno Pacific and Westmont. Their roster is highlighted by returners Emmanuel Perez and Diego Alonso and Cal graduate transfer Spencer Held, who between the three are responsible for 26 of the Mustangs' 36 points on the season. They have outscored opponents 12-8, with Jason Hernandez and Carlos Arce-Hurtado sharing time in between the sticks for the Gauchos' regional rivals. Between the two of them, they have made  14 saves and recorded two shutouts, both against non-Division I opposition.
 
• International Duty
Senior right wingback Noah Billingsley and junior centerback Hunter Ashworth are with the New Zealand U-23 national team and are unavailable for selection. They are away on international duty for at least the Gauchos run of six matches from Sept. 19 to Oct. 5, after being selected to represent their home country in the Oceania Football Confederation U-23 Championship in Fiji. The Kiwi duo are looking to help their home country qualify for its first Olympics since 2012 at the tournament. Billingsley and Ashworth started for New Zealand in the team's 12-0 defeat of American Samoa to book a spot in the semifinal last week. In the "Oly-Whites'" final match of the group stage, Billingsley started and scored in New Zealand's comeback 4-2 win against the Solomon Islands. The team will play Fiji on Tuesday night at 5 PM PST for a chance to go to the final.
 
• Finn It to Win It
After scoring two goals and recording an assist in the Gauchos' pair of games this past week, Finn Ballard McBride was recognized as the Big West Conference's freshman and offensive player of the week. With the honor, The Newingon College product earns his second freshman of the week award and his first offensive player of the week accolade.
 
• One-bault, Two-bault, Three-bault
In the match against UMBC on Sept. 22, Thibault Candia scored the Gauchos' first hat trick since Luis Silva did the same on September 23, 2011 against San Diego. The first goal came early in the first half when Will Baynham played the ball forward for Candia in midfield, where he dribbled the ball into the left side of the 18-yard box, where his attempted cross into the middle deflected off the foot of an opposing player and into the net. In the second half, he put away a penalty into the top left corner and brilliantly dribbled the ball from just past midfield to a few yards behind the top of the box, where he got a shot off with his right foot that the goalkeeper mishandled and spilled into his own net. His For his efforts, he was awarded the Big West Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week award.
 
• Fun for the Whole Family
The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer program is debuting a revamped kids zone this season, featuring activities such as futsal, soccer golf, soccer tennis, and obstacle courses, at Harder Stadium prior to every men's soccer home match. The kids zone will be open to season ticket holders, from 6:30 p.m. up to 15 minutes before kickoff, and also at halftime. Fans are encouraged to arrive early as there is limited space for each game and the kids zone will fill up quickly. The play area will be open to children from the ages of 6 to 12. Event staff will be present to supervise the area, but parents/guardians will be required to sign a liability waiver on the first visit. The area will be located at the north end of Harder Stadium near the Gold Zone and Gaucho Fund hospitality area.
 
• Conference is Coming
In conference play, the Gauchos' home matches against Sacramento State, UC Riverside, and UC Irvine offers a chance for revenge against a trio of opponents that UCSB only managed to pick up a single point from (2-2 OT draw at UC Irvine) last season. The final three games of the season see the Gauchos hit the road, culminating in the all-important second chapter of the Blue-Green Rivalry at the Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo.
 
• Harder Heaven
Last season, UCSB finished 9-0-1 at home, good for its best home record since the 2002 Gauchos went 10-0-0. That came a year after the Gauchos went unbeaten in eight of their 10 home matches during the regular season (4-2-4). In the Vom Steeg era (since 1999), the Gauchos boast a hearty .731 winning percentage (147-46-26).
 
• Cream of the Crop
UCSB were picked to finish first in the Big West Preseason Coaches' Poll, receiving 53 points, tallied from the coaches' votes in which teams were ranked from 1-8 and assigned a corresponding point value, two points ahead of second-placed UC Irvine and eight ahead of CSUN. UCSB also received three first-place votes, whereas Irvine received two, and Cal State Fullerton, UC Riverside, and Cal Poly had one apiece.