UCSB Welcomes UC Irvine, CSUN to Harder in Big West Action

Josue España (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Josue España (Photo by Tony Mastres)

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• The Schedule
Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7:35 p.m. PDT
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Irvine (2-9-0, 0-2-0)
Harder Stadium
All-time record vs. the Anteaters: 36-17-4
Record vs. UCI in Vom Steeg era: 17-12-3
Last meeting: UCSB 3-1 UCI (10/1/15 @ UCI)
UCSB form: L L L T W
UCI form: L W L L L

Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:05 p.m. PDT
UC Santa Barbara vs. CSUN (5-4-1, 2-0-0)
Harder Stadium
All-time record vs. the Matdors: 22-16-5
Record vs. CSUN in Vom Steeg era: 16-10-3
Last meeting: UCSB 2-1 CSUN (10/3/15 @ CSUN)
UCSB form: L L L T W
CSUN form: L T W W W

• Looking Ahead
This week, UCSB will host the first Big West games of the season at Harder Stadium, welcoming UC Irvine on Thursday and CSUN on Saturday. Thursday's contest is Hispanic Heritage night and will take place after UCSB women's soccer's 5:00 p.m. game. One ticket is good for both of those games. Meanwhile, Saturday marks the return of a UCSB soccer tradition: AYSO Banner Night.

• Gauchos on the Air
UCSBGauchos.com will carry live audio broadcasts of both matches this week, with Voice of the Gauchos Gerry Fall providing play-by-play. The audio streams can be found on theUCSB men's soccer schedule page or by clicking here

• The Week in Review
UCSB rebounded in a big way in the first week of conference play, eliminating a 2-0 deficit to earn a 2-2 draw with UC Riverside in Thursday's league opener before topping Cal State Fullerton 2-1 on Saturday to end a six-game winless streak. The Gauchos trailed by a pair after 67 minutes in Riverside, but Nick DePuy started the comeback with a headed-in goal off a Josue España cross. Despite going down to 10-men via a red card, UCSB was able to tie in the 87th minute on a perfectly placed free kick into the top left corner from Kevin Feucht. Against CSF, Feucht was the hero once again, getting his head on a bounced cross at the far post in the 2nd minute of overtime to send UCSB home happy. Noah Billingsley opened the scoring for UCSB in that game by pressing and stealing the ball from a CSF center back and finishing into an open net.

• Advantage on the Anteaters
Though UC Irvine has usually been a tough test for UCSB – Tim Vom Steeg's career .578 winning percentage against the Anteaters is his lowest against any Big West foe – the Gauchos have been fairly dominant over the last few years of the series, winning four straight regular season matchups. UCI's last regular season win at Harder came back in 2011. The Anteaters are struggling this year, with the worst goal differential in the league and just one win over the last month.

• Managing the Matadors
As the only Big West team with which UCSB has faced off in the NCAA Tournament, the Gaucho-Matador rivalry has been one of the best on the west coast in recent years. The blue-and-gold have had the upper hand recently, winning three straight regular season tilts. Interestingly, UCSB's 2014 win at Harder is the only time in the last five matchups where the home team has won, dating back to 2011. CSUN enters this week hot, riding a three-game winning streak and the only 2-0 record in Big West play.

• Feucht Named Big West Offensive Player of the Week
As the catalyst to UCSB's unbeaten week, junior midfielder Kevin Feucht was named the Big West Offensive Player of the Week on Monday afternoon. Feucht scored the game-tying goal against UC Riverside then notched the overtime game-winner against Cal State Fullerton. It was his first career Big West weekly award, but he was named to the College Soccer News Team of the Week earlier this year.

• Defending Their Crown
With four points out of their first two games last week, UCSB is in a familiar place: at the top of the Big West North Division. So far in league play, UCSB is the only North team with a positive goal differential and is one of two teams league-wide (UC Davis) to score four goals. The Gauchos have won three consecutive Big West North titles and have nine Big West regular season championships since 2002.

• Confident in Conference Play
UCSB has been dominant in conference play over the past three-plus seasons, accruing a 21-4-7 record  and taking home the regular season title each year. The Gauchos' 70 combined points in league play over that span are easily the most of any Big West school, with all other teams racking up between 31 and 46 points.

• Storming the South
Since the conference switched to divisional play for the 2012 season, UCSB has accrued a 13-2-3 record against Big West South opponents. That mark is the best inter-divisional record of any league school. So far in 2016, the South has an advantage in inter-divisional play, accruing 13 points to the North's 10.

• RPI Report
The NCAA on Monday unveiled its first official RPI report of the season, and the Gauchos checked in at No. 74, second-best in the Big West behind CSUN's No. 46 ranking.

• Offense Clicking
Through the first month and a half of the season, UCSB has proven itself as one of the more dynamic offensive units around, as the Gauchos have scored more goals (21), produced more assists (21), totaled more points (63), and taken more shots (13.9 per game) than any other Big West team. UCSB has scored multiple goals in four straight and eight games overall.

• Feucht on a Roll
Last week's performance was just a continuation of a month-long hot streak for Feucht, who is having one of the top offensive seasons in the country. The German's leads the Big West and ranks ninth nationally with eight goals, a total which is tied with Cal's Christian Thierjung for the lead among all players west of Omaha. Feucht has scored in five straight games, joining teammate Nick DePuy as one of just six Gauchos ever to accomplish that feat. His five-game scoring streak is second in school history behind Rob Friend's 12-game streak.

• Leaders Stepping Up
UCSB's three returning All-Big West First Teamers have been coming through big time for UCSB this season. Kevin Feucht (eight goals) and Nick DePuy (five goals, third-most in the Big West) have accounted for 61.9% of the team's goals in 2016. Meanwhile, senior midfielder Josue España is tied for the league lead with six assists.

• Big West Respect
UCSB was selected unanimously to repeat as Big West North Division Champions and three Gauchos were named to the 11-man Preseason All-Conference Team when the league unveiled the results of the 2016 Preseason Coaches Poll. The Gauchos received all eight first place votes and totaled 32 points, more than any other Big West squad. Cal State Fullerton was tabbed to win the South Division. DePuy, Kevin Feucht, and forward Ahinga Selemani placed on the Preseason All-Big West Team.

• DePuy Lands No. 30
Nick DePuy's second-half marker against UC Riverside on Thursday was the 30th goal of his collegiate career, making him just the ninth Big West player ever to hit that mark. His next goal will put him at No. 8 in the Big West annals alongside former Gaucho Rob Friend. DePuy's 15 career game-winners rank first all-time at UCSB and third in the Big West. The 6-5 striker lined up at center back vs. Cal State Fullerton in a new-look UCSB lineup. The MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List member has goals in three of his last four games.

• DePuy's Preseason Publicity
It was a busy offseason for Nick DePuy, who garnered a number of preseason awards. The senior striker was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, received a College Soccer News Preseason All-America honor, was listed as the top "senior poised for a big year," and was named the 2015-16 UCSB Male Athlete of the Year on top of his selection to the Preseason All-Big West Team.

• DePuy in a Few
There is a clear reason Nick DePuy is one of the most hyped seniors in college soccer this year, as the striker is coming off a historic junior campaign. In 2015, he led all NCAA players with 15 regular season goals and eight game-winners, he led the Big West in goals and points (31) by a wide margin, and he received a litany of postseason awards including First Team All-America, Big West Offensive Player of the Year, and Mac Hermanny Trophy Semifinalist honors.