September 13, 2006

Regional Rival Loyola Marymount Up Next For No. 14 UCSB

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Sept. 13, 2006

This Week's Schedule

Friday, September 15, 2006
No. 14 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Loyola Marymount Lions
Harder Stadium • Kickoff 7:30 p.m.

UCSB Wins Big West Opener
UCSB's quest to reclaim the Big West Conference title began last Tuesday with a 2-0 victory over Cal Poly at Harder Stadium. After the Mustangs limited the Gauchos to just three shots in the first period, UCSB got on the board first just before the break when midfielder Chris Pontius collected a rebound outside the box and scored on a rocket for the 1-0 lead. Santa Barbra then put the game out of reach in the 72nd minute after forward Andrew Proctor beat his man one-on one on the right wing and found a slashing Bongomin Otii just inside the box for the goal and the final 2-0 margin. UCSB outshot the visitors 12-4 in the match and also held a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks.The win was the 11th in a row for the Gauchos over their Central Coast rivals.

Gauchos Lose a Heartbreaker to UIC, 2-1
After the win over visiting Cal Poly, UCSB then welcomed the 18th-ranked University of Illinois at Chicago to town Friday. In the second-ever meeting between the two schools, the Gauchos dominated a scoreless first half, outshooting the Flames, 9-0. Santa Barbara struck first two minutes into the second period when Otii chipped in a rebound for the score and the 1-0 lead. That advantage held until the Flames' Tonci Kroce put in the rebound of a save for the equalizer in the 61st minute. The two squads then battled even for the next 29 minutes until UIC's Mike Giffin launched a desperation shot from the center circle. With overtime less than a minute away Kyle Reynish laid out, making a last-second attempt to get a hand on the ball, but it flew over his head, hit the crossbar and bounced straight down and into the box. Eric Cervantes put in the rebound with 31 seconds left on the clock for the final 2-1 margin. Despite limiting the Flames to just seven shots in the match, the Gauchos lost for the first time at home this season.

Caging The Lions
• After a week off following last week's heartbreaking 2-1 loss to No. 18 Illinois at Chicago, UCSB returns to the pitch this Friday against Far West regional rival Loyola Marymount. Tonight's contest will mark the 28th meeting between the two programs, with the Gauchos holding a narrow 14-12-1 series advantage.

• LMU has had UCSB's number lately, winning the last eight meetings, six of which have been decided by one goal. Last season, Santa Barbara fell 2-1 at Loyola Marymount after a last second goal from Chris Pontius was waived off. The Gauchos last defeated the Lions by a 5-0 margin in Los Angeles in 1995.

• The Lions enter Friday's match with a 3-2-0 record after splitting a pair of contests with Rhode Island and host Crimson at last weekend's Harvard Tournament. LMU is led by senior forwards David Niemeyer and Bobby Burling, who have each tallied a pair of goals and an assist so far in 2006. Goalkeeper Robert Flores has posted 17 saves and a 0.97 goals against average in four starts for the Lions.

Defense...Still the Name of the Game
Head coach Tim Vom Steeg has always made defense a strong point at UCSB and the 2006 squad is no exception. Entering Friday's match with Loyola Marymount, the Gauchos have allowed just three goals this season, with two of those coming in last week's 2-1 defeat at the hands of the 18th-ranked Flames (the other came in a 1-0 loss to No. 3 Virginia in week one). In fact, Santa Barbara has been perfect defensively in the team's three wins, not allowing a single goal. The three goals are the fewest allowed among the six teams in the Big West and the Gauchos' three shutouts are also tops. Finally, UCSB leads the conference and ranks 22nd nationally with a 0.60 goals against average. Through five games, the Gauchos have developed a simple formula for success: keep the opposing team from scoring.

Where they Rank
After last Friday's defeat at the hands of UIC, Gaucho fans have to be wondering where UCSB stands in the national polls this week. Although the loss did translate into the Gauchos slipping in the polls, the good news is that fall was not too substantial considering the loss came to a Top 20 team that has yet to lose a match. Santa Barbara enters play in week four with a No. 22 national ranking in the NSCAA/adidas Top 25, down three spots from the No. 19 position they held a week ago. In the media polls, the Gauchos came in at No. 14 in the College Soccer News Top 30, dropped to No. 17 in the SoccerTimes Top 25 and are currently 19th according to Soccer America.

Playing With the Best
When UCSB takes on Loyola Marymount Friday night it will be just the second time this season that Santa Barbara has faced an opponent NOT ranked in the Top 25. In an effort to prepare themselves for the ultra-competitive Big West Conference, the Gauchos are once again in the midst of a difficult non-conference schedule. Four of Santa Barbara's first five matches have come against nationally ranked opponents, with two contests coming against Top 10 squads. In week one, UCSB took on then-ranked No. 5 Akron and No. 3 Virginia, and has since squared off with No. 21 San Diego State and the 18th-ranked University of Illinois at Chicago. The Gauchos, who have posted a 2-2 record against ranked opponents so far in 2006, will also face UCLA on October 5, currently No. 8 in this week's College Soccer News poll.

Striking Distance
By now, the UCSB faithful have all heard Bongomin Otii's name. The freshman forward is quickly becoming one of the nation's most prolific goal scorers after finding the net five times in his first five games for the Gauchos this season. In fact, he is the first player in program history to accomplish that feat. Called "one of the country's most feared strikers in the box" by Soccer America last week, Otii ranks 7th nationally in goals per game average after scoring two of the Gauchos' three goals last week against Cal Poly and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Denver native scored Santa Barbara's second goal in the 2-0 win over the Mustangs, streaking into the box and collecting a pass from Andrew Proctor for the score in the 72nd minute. The Gauchos put one ball in the net in a 2-1 loss to the visiting Flames and who do you think scored that goal?...that's right, it was Otii. A little more than two minutes into halftime, he was there to clean up the rebound off of an Eric Avila shot. In addition to leading the team with five goals for 10 points, Otii also leads UCSB with 13 shots and a .385 shot percentage.

The Iro Factor
Junior defender Andy Iro had another outstanding game against Cal Poly last week, leading a backline that completely took the Mustang offense out of the match. After the visitors surprised the Gauchos in the first period, limiting them to just four shots, Iro and the Gaucho defense took over in the second half, allowing the squad to do what it wanted offensively. UCSB broke through with a pair of goals to win the match. Overall, the Liverpool, England native and the defense were stellar once again, allowing just four Cal Poly shots, one of which was on frame, and helping post the team's third shutout in four games. The Hermann Trophy candidate notched his first assist of the year in UCSB's 1-0 win over then-ranked No. 21 San Diego State September 22.

Sophomore Sensation
Sophomore midfielder Chris Pontius has started all five games for the Gauchos so far this season and with each match, he is making his presence felt more and more. The Yorba Linda, Calif. native has been an instrumental component in the Santa Barbara midfield, helping to make up for the loss of injured All-Big West First Team selection Tyler Rosenlund. After tallying an assist on the Gauchos' first goal of the year in the 5-0 thrashing of Akron, Pontius found the net for the first time in 2006 in last week's match with Cal Poly. His rocket from 30 yards out after a free kick gave UCSB the 1-0 lead and proved to be the game-winner, as Santa Barbara went on to win 2-0. Pontius, who is currently third on the team with three points, now has four goals in his young career. He is one of only four Gauchos to score a goal this season.

The Last Line Of Defense
One of the most crucial components of a strong backfield is always the last line of defense, the goalkeeper. Senior net minder Kyle Reynish has been outstanding for the Gauchos this season and is a big reason why they own the nation's 22nd-best goals against average at 0.60. The Valencia, Calif. native has allowed just three goals in 450 minutes in 2006, with two of those coming in last Friday's heartbreaking loss to No. 18 Illinois at Chicago. He has recorded a total of 19 saves and sports a solid .864 save percentage, which ranks 23rd nationally. Last week Reynish and the Santa Barbara defense posted a shutout against Cal Poly, limiting the Mustangs to just one shot on goal. The shutout was the third of the season for Reynish after he blanked No. 7 Akron in in a 5-0 win in week one and held No. 21 San Diego State at bay a week later. In only his second year as the Gauchos' starting keeper, he now has a total of 15 career shutouts.

Moving Forward
In addition to the freshman Otii, junior forward Andrew Proctor has been strong up front for UCSB lately. Appearing in all five of the Gauchos' games so far, Proctor was in the starting lineup for the first time this season against Illinois at Chicago after playing very well in Santa Barbara's 2-0 victory over Cal Poly last week. The Burnaby, British Colombia native got in the scoring column with an assist on the Gauchos' second goal against the Mustangs. In the 72nd minute, Proctor got the ball on the wing, dribbled down the right side of the field and around his man before finding Otii slashing in the box for the score. He recorded one shot, which was on frame in his start against the Flames.