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Big Week for Gauchos Playing at Cal Poly, Hosting No. 5 Stanford in Non-Conference Finales

Finn Ballard McBride (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Finn Ballard McBride (Photo by Jeff Liang)

The Schedule
Wednesday, September 21, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. PT
UC Santa Barbara (4-1-2) at Cal Poly (0-6)
at Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Watch on ESPN+Live Stats

Saturday, September 17, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. PT
UC Santa Barbara (4-1-2) vs. No. 5-T Stanford
Student T-Shirt Giveaway
at Harder Stadium in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Watch on ESPN+Live Stats

Wild Comeback vs. Grand Canyon
In its only game last week, a fresh-legged Gaucho side fell behind 2-0 early to Grand Canyon, but would spend the rest of the match battling its way back to seal a 2-2 draw on two of UCSB's best goals of the season. Freshman Joe Sherbourne scored his first of the season in the 39th minute with a clinical chip over the keeper on a breakaway. Later, with less than three minutes remaining, a ball into the box from Alexis Ledoux found Salvador Aguilar who went sky-high for a powerful and acrobatic header, helping the Gauchos extend to a four-match unbeaten streak.

Blue-Green Rivalry: Part I
A capacity crowd is expected once again for UCSB's Wednesday night, non-conference affair with Blue-Green rival Cal Poly at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The Mustangs have not only been winless against the Gauchos for nearly four years running, but they have yet to win a game this season, entering the final week of ahead of Big West play with an 0-6 record for the first time in the team's Division I history. Since Cal Poly became a DI program in 1994, the Gauchos own a 29-15-9 edge in the series. The matches have historically been highly competitive both on the field and on the scoreboard, with 20 of the last 27 meetings either being decided by one goal or ending in a tie.

 Air Aguilar
Santa Barbara could easily have two more in the loss column without the late-game heroics of Salvador Aguilar. At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, the sophomore is not only the Gauchos' tallest forward – he is their de facto target through the air, possessing a dangerous combination of aerial physicality and precision headers. Aguilar is tied for the team-lead with three goals this season, owning three of UCSB's four headed goals. His first came in a 1-1 season-opening tie at No. 17 Missouri State, when he brought the Gauchos level in the 75th minute. He opened the scoring in UCSB's following 2-0 win over California Baptist and most recently equalized in dramatic fashion with an 88th minute stunner against Grand Canyon.

The match against GCU also saw the former San Jose Earthquakes Academy standout record his first career assist and claim his second Big West Offensive Player of the Week this season. He earned his first of the year and second of his career after becoming the first Gaucho to score in each of the first two games of the season since Carter Clemmensen (2018). In the Big West, he is tied for third in goals (3) and second in shots on goal (8).

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. He recorded an assist in each of his first four games, with the run coming to an end against GCU. Two weekends ago, 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.

In his first four games, the talented midfielder 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 tied for 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, Sept. 12 after not only leading UCSB's back line to great success, but being responsible for starting many of the Gauchos' offensive attacks. In the Gauchos' 5-1 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.

McBride Hitting Stride
Australia native Finn Ballard McBride found paydirt in three consecutive outings prior to the GCU game, doing so for the first time since scoring in four straight games midway through his 2019 freshman season. With a goal in just under half his appearances this season, the two-time reigning Big West scoring champion and 2021 All-Big West First Team selection is right on pace with his sterling career average of 0.43 goals per game. His three goals are currently tied with Aguilar for the team-high and 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 are second on the team and are tied for sixth in the conference.

Two weekends ago, 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 that weekend, which are currently tied for ninth 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 a season-high six against Cornell and five at LMU to open the month of September. His .758 save percentage currently ranks second in the Big West.

First National Ranking
UCSB has received votes every week since the preseason, cracking the top-25 with a No. 18 national ranking for the week following Sept. 5-11 (United Soccer Coaches).

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 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).