No. 14 UCSB Hosts Columbia Friday, Clashes With No. 6 Harvard Sunday at LMU

No. 14 UCSB Hosts Columbia Friday, Clashes With No. 6 Harvard Sunday at LMU

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Sept. 18, 2007

The Schedule
Match No. 6
Friday, September 21, 2007
No. 14 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Columbia Lions
Harder Stadium
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.

Match No. 7
Sunday, September 23, 2007
No. 14 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 6 Harvard University Crimson
Loyola Marymount's Sullivan Field
Kickoff 1:30 p.m.

Gauchos On the Air & Web
UCSB fans can catch the Gauchos' showdown with the Columbia by tuning in to KCSB 91.9 in Santa Barbara. After following UCSB during its championship run in 2006, Chris "Hoffy" Hoffman and Alex "No H" Pavlovic will be calling the action live from Harder Stadium Friday night. The Gaucho faithful can also listen to the two hardest working guys in student radio online by logging on to

Scouting the Lions
• UCSB hosts Columbia Friday as the Gauchos welcome former assistant coach Leo Chappel back to Harder Stadium for the first time as a head coach. Friday's contest marks just the second meeting between the two schools after Santa Barbara posted a 4-1 win in the 2004 UNM Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. Drew McAthy scored twice to lead the Gauchos to the convincing victory.

• Columbia enters tonight's match searching for its first victory of the season after dropping a 4-0 decision at Northeastern on Sunday. The Lions (0-4-0) return a total of 19 letterwinners and eight starters from their 2006 squad that finished with an overall record of 7-8-2 and 0-5-2 in the Ivy League standings.

• The Lions have been outscored 12-1 to start the season and junior forward Tom Smith netted the lone goal against Stony Brook September 10. Freshman midfielder Pepe Carotenuto leads the squad with eight shots, while fellow newcomer Bayo Adafin has tallied six and also registered an assist on Smith's goal. Senior keeper Michael Testa has started all four games and owns a 3.08 goals against average with 21 saves.

Scouting the Crimson
• After its match-up with Columbia, UCSB will take on No. 6 Harvard at Loyola Marymount's Sullivan Field Sunday in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

• The Crimson, who will face LMU Friday, enter the season's fourth week with a perfect record of 6-0-0 after posting a pair of 2-1 home victories over Boston University and UMass over the weekend. Harvard is ranked sixth in this week's Soccer America Top 25 and seventh in the latest College Soccer News Top 30.

• Harvard returns 19 letterwinners and nine starters from its 2006 team that finished 14-5-0 overall and won an Ivy League Championship at 6-1-0. The Crimson were knocked out of the 2006 NCAA Tournament by eventual national runner-up UCLA, 3-0. Sophomore forward Andre Akpan leads the squad with three goals and three assists through six games this season, while junior midfielder Michael Fucito is not far behind with three goals and two assists. Senior netminder Adam Hahn has started every game between the posts and has recorded a goals against average of 0.83, with 18 saves and two shutouts.

Gauchos Knock Off SMU...Again
UC Santa Barbara picked up its first victory over a ranked opponent in 2007 last week, besting No. 3 SMU in overtime to defeat the Mustangs for the second time in a nine-game stretch dating back to last season. Sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien gave the Gauchos a 1-0 lead with his team-leading second goal of the season in the 34th minute and then, after UCSB allowed a goal in the 83rd minute that tied the game, connected with Eric Avila for the game-winner just 6:48 into overtime. With the 2-1 victory, Santa Barbara improved to 3-0-0 all-time against Southern Methodist, including last season's convincing 3-1 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. UCSB hoped to keep the momentum going in Sunday's match with No. 28 New Mexico, but it was not meant to be and the Gauchos fell 2-1. Chris Pontius' second goal of the season in the 29th minute tied the game at one, but a Lobo goal in the 82nd minute proved to be the difference.

An Eye On the Polls
While UCSB's win over then-third-ranked 3 SMU was huge for the Gauchos, it didn't exactly translate into a rise in the national polls. In fact, the win lost some of its luster after events on Sunday, as the Mustangs dropped a 2-0 decision against previously unranked Washington and Santa Barbara fell at No. 28 New Mexico on the final day of the Nike/Crescent Financial Solutions Invitational. UCSB slipped six spots in the third NSCAA/adidas coaches poll of the season from No. 14 to No. 20 heading into competition this week. In the media polls, Santa Barbara dropped as well, falling from No. 9 to No. 14 in the current College Soccer News Top 30. As far as the Soccer America Top 25 goes, the Gauchos fell six spots from No. 13 to No. 19 in this week's rankings. Lastly, UCSB dropped six spots in the the SoccerTimes Top 25 as well, earning a No. 18 nod after securing the 12th spot last week.

Chances Are the Gauchos Have Your Number
Although we discussed UCSB's success against first-time opponents in week one, its worth examining again with the Gauchos' showdown with No. 6 Harvard -- the first-ever meeting between two of the nation's elite programs -- just days away. Over the past three seasons, Santa Barbara has faired extremely well in contests in which it is facing an opponent for the first time. In fact, the Gauchos are an impressive 9-0-1 in such games since 2004, with the only tie coming in last season's College Cup Semifinal against Wake Forest (UCSB advanced 4-3 in a penalty kick shoot-out). Not only have the Gauchos been impossible to beat as a first-time opponent recently, Santa Barbara has also out-scored the opposition by an incredible 28-3 margin over that span. Head coach Tim Vom Steeg has to like those statistics as his squad will take on its third ranked opponent in a four-game stretch when the Gauchos battle the Crimson Sunday.

Utah, Get Me Two
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that you have a better chance to win the game when you score. With that said, two seems to be UCSB's magic number through the team's first five games of the 2007 season. The Gauchos have not lost when scoring twice this season, tying Stanford 2-2 in the season-opener Aug. 31 and defeating Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2-0 two weeks ago and No. 3 SMU 2-1 Friday. Flipping the coin, Santa Barbara is 0-2 when scoring one goal or less. UCSB was blanked 1-0 by Gonzaga Sept. 2 and edged 2-1 by No. 28 New Mexico on Sunday.

90 Minutes.
As the previous paragraph indicated, Santa Barbara's defense has been far from perfect to start the season. In fact, the Gauchos have uncharacteristically allowed seven goals in five games for a goals against average of 1.4 so far in 2007. But what is of most concern is not the fact that number is above one, but when the opposition is scoring. After Sunday's 2-1 loss at New Mexico, UCSB has now allowed a goal in the final 10 minutes of regulation in four of its five games in 2007. In their first game of the season, a goal in the 81st minute tied the game at two at Stanford Aug. 31. Gonzaga broke through with the game's only goal at the 81:35 mark to steal a win two days later. More recently, Santa Barbara was nearly eight minutes away from a shutout victory over SMU last Friday, but a Mustang goal at the 82:22 mark forced overtime before UCSB eventually prevailed 2-1. Lastly, the Lobos pushed through with the game-winner at the 81:49 mark to send the Gachos to their second defeat of the season on Sunday. Finishing games has traditionally been a very strong point for UCSB and, while the defending champs have struggled to close so far in 2007, there is no reason to believe this team won't figure it our and put the clamps down going forward as well.

O'Brien Named Big West Co-Player of the Week
Sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien was named the Big West Conference Co-Player of the Week for the week ending September 16, it was announced on Monday. The native of Federal Way, Wash. became the first Gaucho to take home the conference's weekly honor in 2007 after his performance against third-ranked SMU over the weekend. O'Brien scored his second goal of the season to give UCSB a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute when he took a pass from senior forward Tino Nuñez, beat two defenders up the middle, and scored from 10 yards out. After the Gauchos allowed a goal in the 83rd minute that forced overtime, O'Brien connected with fellow midfielder Eric Avila, who netted the game-winner just 6:48 into the extra period, sending Santa Barbara to its second consecutive victory overall and second win over Southern Methodist in the last two seasons. He also led the team with four shots in Sunday's 2-1 loss at the hands of No. 28 New Mexico. In addition to leading the squad with two goals and five points, the transfer from the University of San Diego ranks second with 12 shots and six shots on goal through five games this season. UCSB had two players named Player of the Week during its national championship season in 2006.

Mr. Versatility
Junior midfielder Chris Pontius entered the season with four goals in 43 career games in the blue and gold. He has already scored twice in five games this season. A striker at Servite High School, Pontius has been an extremely valuable player for the Gauchos over the last three years, playing primarily in the midfield but also filling in on the backline and up front from time to time. It appears that he is determined to contribute more offensively in 2007 after scoring his team-leading second goal in Sunday's 2-1 loss at New Mexico. The Yorba Linda, Calif. native headed in a cross from Jon Curry in the 29th minute to tie the game at one after the Lobos had taken an early lead in the ninth minute. Pontius also recorded his first assist of the year last Friday on Ciaran O'Brien's goal in 34th minute. His tied with O'Brien for the team lead with five points.

Avila Gets It Going
Preseason All-American Eric Avila picked an excellent time to score his first goal of 2007, notching the game-winner just 6:48 into the overtime period against No. 3 SMU last Friday. He got a feed from fellow midfielder Ciaran O'Brien and made a great run, beating the Mustang keeper to deliver the 2-1 win and record his first goal since scoring the game-winner against UCLA in the national championship last December. The San Diego native now has 12 career goals as Gaucho -- the most of any of the 28 players on UCSB's current roster. Avila earned All-Big West First Team distinction in 2006 after leading the team with eight goals to go with five assists for 21 points. He currently leads the squad with two assists and ranks second with four points through five games in 2007.

Iro, Avila Named to Hermann Award Watch List
Senior defender Andy Iro and junior midfielder Eric Avila were recently named to the 2007 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List, marking the first time in program history that two Gauchos were selected for the prestigious list that will eventually determine the NCAA Division I Player of the Year. The defending national champions are one of only two schools in the nation that had multiple players named to the Watch List, joining senior goalkeeper Matt Allen and junior forward Byron Dacy of Creighton. UCSB has now had a total of four players named to the list after Iro received the honor in 2006 and former teammate Tyler Rosenlund was selected in 2005. The winner of the M.A.C.'s Hermann Trophy will be determined by a panel of NSCAA Division I member coaches. A list of 15 semifinalists will be announced in November, and three finalists will be named in early December in conjunction with the NCAA Division I College Cup. The final three will be invited to the Missouri Athletic Club on Friday, January 11, 2008 and the winner will be announced during a nationally-televised news conference that evening.