13th-Ranked Gauchos Begin Quest For A Fifth Big West Title Saturday At UC Davis
Sept. 26, 2007
Match No. 8
Saturday, September 29, 2007
No. 13 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at UC Davis Aggies
Kickoff 4:00 p.m.
For the Record
UC Santa Barbara wrapped up its non-conference schedule last weekend with the Loyola Marymount Invitational, although both of its matches were played at UCSB's Harder Stadium, oddly enough. The Gauchos kicked off the week with a 5-1 thrashing of Columbia in former assistant Leo Chappel's return to Santa Barbara for the first time as a head coach. Then, after rainfall in the Los Angeles area Friday afternoon resulted in poor field conditions at LMU's Sullivan Field, UCSB's match with No. 6 Harvard was moved to Harder Stadium, as well. Trailing 1-0 late in the second half Sunday, Chris Pontius scored on a corner kick to tie the game in the 75th minute and the Gauchos had to settle for a 1-1 tie with the Crimson. Santa Barbara has now played a ranked opponent in three of its last four matches and enters Big West Conference play with an overall record of 3-2-2.
Scouting the Aggies
UCSB begins its quest for another Big West Conference title this Saturday against UC Davis in its only match of the week. This weekend's contest marks the 15th meeting between the budding conference rivals and, although the Gauchos lead the overall series 9-3-2, the two programs have had some dog fights over the years and it has been extremely competitive recently. In the first meeting last season, Sule Anibaba scored from 15 yards out in the 19th minute and the Aggies held on for the 1-0 victory September 23 in Davis. UCSB then returned the favor a month later, as Bryan Byrne's goal on a feed from Andrew Proctor in the 61st delivered a 1-0 shutout win at Harder Stadium.
Entering its inaugural season as an official member of the Big West Conference, Davis brings an overall record of 5-1-1 into Saturday's showdown after recording a 3-0 win at Sacramento State Sunday. While the Aggies have not cracked any of the national polls this season, they are ranked No. 7 in this week's NSCAA/adidas Far West Region Top 10 -- right behind the Guachos at No. 6. UC Davis finished with an overall record of 9-7-2 and went 7-3-2 against the BWC in 2006.
The Aggies lead the Big West with 23 goals through seven games this season and their defense has surrendered just nine. The team's average of 3.29 goals per game also leads the conference. Junior midfielder Sule Anibaba is the league leader with six goals to go with one assist for 13 points, while sophomores Chris Leer and Paul Marcoux are tied for second with four goals apiece. Senior goalkeeper Brian Wickers has started all seven contests between the posts and owns a goals against average of 1.24 with 25 saves and two shutouts.
Gauchos Claim LMU Invitational Title
After defeating Columbia and tying Harvard, the Gauchos were crowned champions of the quirky Loyola Marymount Invitational last weekend. Finishing with a tournament record of 1-0-1, UCSB tied with host LMU, who defeated Harvard 3-2 and tied Columbia 0-0, but earned the tie-breaker with a better goal differential (+4 to +1). Over the last seven years, the Gauchos own an impressive 15-3-2 record against regular season tournament competition -- including both the LMU and Nike/Crescent Financial Solutions Invites this season -- and have now claimed seven tournament titles over that span. Chris Pontius was named the tournament's Offensive MVP and Michael Boxall earned Defensive Co-MVP honors, sharing the award with the Lions' Adam Sloustcher. Eric Avila and Tino Nuñez were also named to the all-tournament team.
Watching Santa Barbara's first few games of the season, you got the feeling that the offense was due for a big night. That night came Friday against Columbia. The Gauchos erupted for a season-high five goals in a rout of the visiting Lions, with the five scores coming from five different players. Tino Nuñez, Alfonso Motagalvan, Andrew Proctor, Eric Avila, and Martin Hedevag all found the net in the victory with everyone but Nuñez and Avila scoring for the first time in 2007. The five goal performance eclipsed the team's previous high of two goals scored in wins over over Wisconsin-Milwaukee and then-ranked No. 3 SMU, as well as a tie with Stanford. The 5-1 win was Santa Barbara's largest margin of victory since the Gauchos defeated UC Riverside 4-0 in the final game of the regular season a year ago.
An Eye On The Polls
With a convincing 5-1 victory over winless Columbia Friday -- a team the Gauchos absolutely had to beat -- and a hard-fought 1-1 draw with previously-ranked No. 6 Harvard, UCSB's position in the national polls didn't change much but the shift was in the right direction. Santa Barbara maintained its position in this week's NSCAA/adidas coaches poll and will enter competition for the second consecutive week with a ranking of No. 20. In the media polls, the Gauchos will enter conference play having moved up one spot from No. 14 to No. 13 in the current College Soccer News Top 30. UCSB's biggest change from last week came in the latest Soccer America Top 25, as the team climbed from the No. 19 spot last week to No. 15 this week. Lastly, UCSB move up three spots in the the SoccerTimes Top 25, earning a tie with UCLA for the No. 15 nod after securing the 18th spot last week.
Now Is Our Time
While the Gauchos' 3-2-2 non-conference mark is not the start the defending national champions envisioned, the team definitely took some necessary steps to prepare themselves for what should be a challenging and competitive league title chase in 2007. Winners of all but two of the conference titles since the Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001, Santa Barbara has been the team to beat, posting a combined record of 45-11-4 against league foes over that span. Last year the Gauchos finished 7-3-0 in conference play and had seven players named to all-conference teams. Picked by the league's coaches to hoist the trophy for the sixth year in a row, UCSB begins its quest for a fourth Big West crown in the last six seasons and a sixth consecutive postseason berth this Saturday against a very talented UC Davis squad. Being the favorites to win the conference, as well as the defending national champs, the Gauchos are sure to have their hands full as the league season unfolds.
A Balanced Attack
The trend that UCSB's offense had set through the season's first three week's continued last weekend against Columbia and sixth-ranked Harvard. With all six goals during the LMU Invitational coming from six different players, with four different guys picking up assists, it's clear that a host of Gauchos are capable of contributing offensively. UCSB has now scored 13 goals this season and a total of eight guys have found the net. And while Chris Pontius, Eric Avila, Tino Nuñez, and Ciaran O'Brien have accounted for nine of those, only Pontius has scored more than twice. In addition to finishing the ball, eight different players have combined to dish out a total of 12 assists in 2007 with Avila, O'Brien, Nick Perera, and Jon Curry tied for the team lead with two helpers apiece. The Santa Barbara offense definitely has balance and any coach will tell you that's a great thing to have.
Now That's Clutch
Junior Chris Pontius continued to get it done in the midfield this weekend and, more importantly, he came up big in UCSB's match with No. 6 Harvard Sunday afternoon. With the Gauchos' trailing 1-0 late in the second half, Pontius used a header to punch in the game-tying goal off a Ciaran O'Brien corner kick in the 75th minute. The native of Yorba Linda, Calif. rose above the crowd and sent a ball directly towards the net, where it hit the cross bar and bounced straight down past the goal line at the 74:44 mark. Entering the season with just four goals in 43 career games in the blue and gold, Pontius now leads the squad and ranks sixth in the Big West Conference with three through seven games in 2007. He also has one assist, giving him a team-high seven points. 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. He is one of the most versatile players on the Santa Barbara roster and there is no denying -- now, more than ever -- how critical Pontius is to the Gauchos' success.
Avila Heating Up
After scoring his first goal of the season in overtime to defeat then-ranked No. 3 SMU September 14, Preseason All-American Eric Avila found the net again Friday night in the Gauchos' 5-1 win over Columbia. With UCSB already up 3-1, Avila received a pass from junior forward Nick Perera just inside the box and punched it through to the far side of the net at the 54:27 mark. The San Diego native is tied for second on the squad with two goals and now has 13 for his career as Gaucho -- the most of any of the 28 players on UCSB's current roster. He also has two assists for six total points, which ranks seventh in the Big West and leads the conference with 29 total shots. 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.
Junior midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan scored his first goal of the season against Columbia last week, netting the game-winner in the 43rd minute. With the scored tied a 1-1, Nick Perera notched his first assist of the evening when he carried the ball towards the end line on the right side, before turning a sending a right-footed cross through the box for Motagalvan. The Gilroy, Calif. native was in perfect position to finish the play and quickly one-timed the pass to the lower left corner just inside the post to give the Gauchos the lead for good at the 42:17 mark. The goal was just the second in 46 career matches for the defensive-minded Motagalvan, with the first coming against UC Riverside November 9, 2005. He recorded an assist in UCSB's 2-0 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee September 7 and has three points on the season.
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.