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Gauchos Earn No. 18 National Ranking as They Prep for Saturday GCU Meeting

Leroy Zeller (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Leroy Zeller (Photo by Jeff Liang)

The Schedule
Saturday, September 17, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. PT
No. 18 UC Santa Barbara (4-1-1) vs. Grand Canyon (2-3)
AYSO Parade Night – Kids Wig Giveaway!
at Harder Stadium in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Watch on ESPN+Live Stats

Gauchos Now Ranked No. 18 in the Nation
After receiving votes for the first couple weeks of the season, UCSB's current three-game win streak has seen it leapfrog a number of teams in the national rankings, including recent opponent No. 19 Missouri State and last year's NCAA Tournament foe No. 25 UCLA. The Gauchos are the only Big West team currently ranked, coming in on Tuesday at No. 18 in the nation (United Soccer Coaches).

Three Straight Wins
The Gauchos continued to look more and more like a dangerous cohesive unit this past weekend, picking up a pair of solid wins at home over Oregon State, 3-1 and Utah Valley, 5-1. UCSB knocked off an OSU side that opened the year with a No. 5 national ranking and set a season-high in goals in the first half alone against Utah Valley with four. The Gauchos got big weeks out of a number of players, including Lucas Gonzalez (1G, 2A), Nemo Philipp (2G, 2A) and Finn Ballard McBride (2G). On defense, goalkeeper Leroy Zeller provided a wall as the last line of defense with six more saves, while center back Henry Davies scored his first goal of the season and performed exceptionally as the anchor of UCSB's back line.

Lucas Gonzalez Named to National Team of the Week (College Soccer News)
After being held out for UCSB's first two games of the season due to injury, redshirt sophomore Lucas Gonzalez has been immensely consistent, recording an assist in every game he has appeared in thus far. This past weekend, the Long Beach, Calif. native contributed to three of UCSB's eight goals and as a result earned National Team of the Week recognition from College Soccer News.

Through just four games, the dangerously talented midfielder has already surpassed his offensive totals from last season. He is the first Gaucho to earn recognition on a national scale so far this year and is currently second in the Big West with four assists.

Henry Davies Earns First Career Big West Defensive Player of the Week Award
Reigning conference Defensive Player of the Year Henry Davies was named the Big West Defensive Player of the Week for the first time on Monday after not only leading UCSB's back line to great success, but being responsible for starting many of the Gauchos' offensive attacks. In the win over Utah Valley, Davies found himself in the right place to head in the game's opening goal off a set piece from the corner, giving him his first of the season. He is the second Gaucho to earn conference Player of the Week honors and the first on the defensive end.

Grand Canyon Comes to Town
This Saturday, UCSB welcomes to town a Grand Canyon team out to a 3-3 start. The Lopes are coming off a 15-4-1 year in which they fell just short in penalties in the WAC Championship Game, but still earned an at-large bid for their third NCAA Tournament trip in four years. GCU's first two wins of this year were both highly impressive, starting with a 3-2 road win over then-No. 4 UCLA 3-2 on Sept. 5 that was the highest-ranked win in program history. The Lopes' first of the season came in a 1-0 season-opening home win over a Virginia Tech side that had received national votes. This will be the first time since 1992 that the Gauchos and Lopes face off, with GCU owning a 2-0-0 all-time series record.

McBride Hitting Stride
Australia native Finn Ballard McBride has found paydirt in three consecutive outings, doing so for the first time since scoring in four straight games midway through his 2019 freshman season. With a goal in half of his appearances this season, the two-time reigning Big West scoring champion and 2021 All-Big West First Team selection has upped his career average to a sterling 0.44 goals per game. His three goals currently lead UCSB and are tied for third in the Big West.

Nemo Finding Huge Success
UCSB's coaching staff has encouraged junior midfielder Nemo Philipp to go for goal when he has the chance, and the Hamburg, Germany native has done just that. His seven shots on goal lead the team and rank fifth in the conference.

This past weekend, the Gaucho faithful saw flashes of Philipp's unforgettable game-winning goal in last year's Big West Championship semifinals, as he scored two goals from outside the box – a low, perfectly-struck curler against Utah Valley and a cross from the right wing against Oregon State that ended up in the top left corner of the net. Philipp also notched his first two assists this past weekend, bringing him into a tie for sixth in the Big West.

Stellar Zeller
At 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, junior Leroy Zeller is able to cover a lot of ground. Head coach Tim Vom Steeg has lauded the German goalkeeper for his maturity handling the position over the past year, and the on-field results have been palpable. For the third time in the last two seasons, Zeller registered a career-best 11 saves over a two-game span, going for five against Cornell and a season-high six at LMU to open the month of September. His .778 save percentage currently ranks fourth in the Big West.

 Air Aguilar
After opening the season by becoming the first Gaucho since 2018 to score in each of the first two games of a season, sophomore forward Salvador Aguilar earned the first Big West Offensive Player of the Week award of the year and the second of his career.

Aguilar's aerial physicality and precise headers have made him one of UCSB's main targets to start the year. He converted two goals on his first three shot attempts this season, including the 75th minute equalizer at Missouri State and his 48th minute goal to open the scoring in the 2-0 win over CBU. That was the fourth header goal in his last three outings including UCSB's Community Shield exhibition against Westmont, going down as the first game-winner of his young career and making him the first Gaucho to score in each of the first two games of the season since Carter Clemmensen (2018).

Goals All Game Long
Prior to their two games this past weekend, the Gauchos had scored five of their six goals in the second half. That trend changed against Oregon State and Utah Valley, as UCSB dominated the opening 45 minutes in both matches putting away six goals before halftime. The Gauchos have now balanced things out with a total of seven goals being scored in each half.

Unbeaten August
UCSB went unbeaten in its first two regular season matches and two exhibitions in August, outscoring opponents by a total of 11-2. The Gauchos equalized late to take a 1-1 tie at No. 19 Missouri State in their season-opener on Aug. 25 and defeated California Baptist 2-0 at home three days later.

Starting Strong
The Gauchos are now unbeaten in their last 11 season-openers with a 9-0-2 record since 2011. 

Season Preview: Defending Champs to Bring Talent and Excitement Back to Harder
Coming off a year where he felt his team far exceeded expectations, head coach Tim Vom Steeg has set the bar for his 2022 Gauchos significantly higher. It will be an intriguing challenge to watch for a team that not only scored 44 goals in 2021 – 11 more than any other school in the conference – and was one of just two Big West schools to allow fewer than a goal per contest, but that also returns 10 of its 11 primary starters from last season.

Adding depth in specific areas was Vom Steeg's offseason focus, and he feels the team's needs have been met with the resulting mix of new offensive playmakers, midfield talent and additional defenders. Check out the 2022 season preview for a full breakdown of this year's Gauchos.

Preseason Coaches' Poll Favors Gauchos
The Big West Men's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll is putting last year's Big West champs and Big West runner-ups in the same boat, as UCSB and UC Irvine tied for the most All-Preseason Team selections (3) as well as points (71), although the Gauchos took six first-place votes to the Anteaters' three. Finn Ballard McBride, Henry Davies and Thaabit Baartman were all voted to the Big West Preseason Coaches' Team.

Gauchos in the Pros: 2022 USL Outings and MLS Updates
Among the current players competing professionally in USL League Two for the Gauchos this past summer were Lucas Gonzalez, Finn Ballard McBride and Alexis Ledoux. Read about their exploits as well as other former members of the program who continue playing at a high level on the USL and MLS fronts here.

2021 Recap
UC Santa Barbara was neck-at-neck with UC Irvine during the conference season, as both teams shared the top record during Big West play at 6-1-2 heading into the playoffs. However, they couldn't have looked more different in the final match of the conference tournament, as the Gauchos capped off a magical run with a 4-0 thrashing at Harder Field, the most lopsided win in Big West Championship game history. Despite injuries that could have easily derailed the season, UCSB won its first tournament championship since 2010 and second ever, clinching the program's 14th NCAA Tournament berth since 2002.

Nine Gauchos were named All-Conference, including Big West Defensive Player of the Year Henry Davies and fellow First Teamer Finn Ballard McBride, whose nine goals led the conference for the second straight season. As a team, UCSB finished 12th in the nation in goals (44), 14th in shutouts (9) and 16th in goal differential (+24).

 The Vom Steeg Files
Tim Vom Steeg is in his 24th season of an illustrious career at the helm of the UCSB men's soccer program. After never having qualified for the NCAA Tournament prior to 2001, Vom Steeg has turned the Gauchos into contenders anually, taking UCSB to the dance 14 times since his hiring. He led the program to its first College Cup in 2004 and its first National Championship in 2006. He is a two-time NSCAA National Coach of the Year ('04, '06), and is tied for the most Big West Coach of the Year awards in league history with five, including the 2015 honor. He is the winningest coach in UCSB and Big West men's soccer history. Vom Steeg became UCSB's winngest coach in 2005, earned his 200th overall win in 2013, and triumphed for the 100th time in Big West action during the 2015 season. In 2018, UCSB's 3-1 win over UC Riverside was his 250th career win. His overall record heading into the 2022 season stands at 285-129-56 (.688).