Gauchos set up some heavy dates

May 11, 2010

Tim Vom Steeg isn't shy about speaking his mind to a referee, league official or even his own athletic director.

Heaven help the Hell's Angel who ever leaves his motorcyle in his parking spot.

So UCSB's veteran men's soccer coach didn't avoid the topic of his ultimate goal while releasing the fall schedule. The NCAA College Cup dates he listed on Dec. 10 and 12 at UCSB's own Harder Stadium spoke volumes to his Gauchos.

"We don't avoid the conversation with the team, and it's about reaching our potential," Vom Steeg said. "We all know that this team, in reality, was put together three years ago when we brought in eight freshmen, and this will be their third season together."

At least he inserted some safeguards to keep them from looking too far ahead. They include a Sept. 24 rematch of last year's NCAA Sweet 16 against UCLA, which they lost 2-1, and an Oct. 15 national TV date with Duke.

Both matches at Harder Stadium could serve as College Cup previews.

"When you're in the playoffs, you want to feel like you lost to a better team, and I don't know if that happened," Vom Steeg said. "UCLA was better than us in the first half, we were better in the second half, and so now our goal is to be in that same game with a little more experience and talent.

"We'll be playing them here when the students return, and we worked really hard on getting that date locked in."

The students helped UCSB set the NCAA single-season attendance record for soccer last year -- an average of 4,335 per game.

Duke also reached the Sweet 16 last year, and Vom Steeg expects the ACC power to be ranked in the top 10 when the preseason rankings come out.

"We've worked on bringing Duke here for three years," he said.

In other words, ever since he recruited NCAA All-Region midfielders Danny Barrera, Luis Silva and Michael Tetteh.

The Gauchos will open with exhibitions on Aug. 21 against Westmont and Aug. 28 against an age-group national team from Mexico. They'll travel to Cal State Bakersfield on Sept. 1 and New Mexico on Sept. 4 before returning for their home debut on Sept. 7 against Creighton, a Midwest power that has qualified for 17 of the last 18 NCAA Tournaments.

Creighton's coach didn't even twist his athletic director's arm to budget the trip to Santa Barbara.

"It helps when the A.D. is also the soccer coach," Vom Steeg said.

Budget problems are keeping the Gauchos from their annual trip back East, but Vom Steeg has even found a way around that, too -- with games at the New Mexico Tournament on Sept 17 and 18 against Harvard and Buffalo.

And if they can win four games in the last tournament of the year, the road trip to the College Cup will be the cheapest of all.

Even if it were a three-year journey.