UCSB Begins Conference Stretch Run With Road Matches at UC Riverside, Cal Poly

UCSB Begins Conference Stretch Run With Road Matches at UC Riverside, Cal Poly

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Oct. 10, 2006

This Week's Schedule

Wednesday, October 11, 2006
UC Santa Barbara (7-5-0, 3-1-0) vs. UC Riverside (3-8-1, 0-3-1)
UCR Soccer Stadium • Kickoff 3:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 14, 2006
UC Santa Barbara (7-5-0, 3-1-0) vs. Cal Poly (5-5-3, 1-2-1)
Mustang Stadium • Kickoff 7:00 p.m.

Scouting the Highlanders
• UCSB takes on UC Riverside in the first of two Big West Conference matches this week. The Gauchos and Highlanders will meet for the 17th time on Wednesday and Santa Barbara holds a decisive 15-1-0 advantage in the all-time series. UCSB swept the season series from UCR last season, opening Big West Conference play with a 4-0 victory at Harder Stadium September 18, before defeating the Highlanders 3-1 November 9 in Riverside. Ivan Becerra netted a pair of goals for the Gauchos in the first meeting, while Andrew Proctor, Brennan Tennelle, and Alfonso Motagalvan all tallied their first goals of the season in the second. UCR's only win against UCSB was a 3-2 decision in Riverside all the way back in 1974.

• UC Riverside enters Wednesday afternoon's contest with a 3-8-1 overall record and a 0-3-1 mark in the Big West after losing at Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton in conference action last week. The Highlanders are led by freshman forward Nathan Patterson who has scored a team-high three goals to go with a pair of assists, while Junior midfielder Andrew Villalobos has tallied two goals and three assists. Junior goalkeeper Eric Reed has spent every minute between the posts for UCR and has a 2.09 goals against average with a league-high 49 saves.

Scouting the Mustangs
• Following the mid-week match up with the Highlanders, the Gauchos will head north to face Central Coast rival Cal Poly in the 51st between the two schools. UCSB leads the all-time series 36-12-2 and has dominated the Mustangs as of late. The Gauchos have won the previous 11 meetings, outscoring the Mustangs 33-6 over that span, including a 2-0 victory earlier this season at Harder Stadium. Chris Pontius scored the game-winner in the first half and Bongomin Otii put it out of reach in the second, as UCSB shutout Poly September 6.

• The Mustangs, who are currently in fourth place in the Big West Conference standings at 1-2-1, bring an overall record of 5-5-3 into their Wednesday match up with Cal State Fullerton. Last week Cal Poly posted a 1-0 win over UC Riverside and defeated UC Davis 3-2. Sophomore midfielder Julian Alvarez has been an assist machine, leading the squad with six to go with one goal for a team-high eight points. Sophomore forward Jeff Meyer Jr. leads the Mustangs with three goals in 2006. Fellow sophomore keeper Eric Branagan-Franco has started all but one game for Poly and holds a conference-best 0.75 goals against average with 40 saves.

UCLA Has UCSB's Number Again
No. 7 UCLA came to town last Thursday for a NSCAA Far West Regional showdown at Harder Stadium. The Bruins scored in the first minute and then again just before halftime, on the way to a 3-1 victory over the Gauchos in a match that was broadcast live nationally by the Fox Soccer Channel. Michael Stephens got UCLA going when his shot bounced off Santa Barbara midfielder David Walker and past goalkeeper Kyle Reynish for the early 1-0 lead. The Gauchos responded in the 24th minute when Eric Frimpong put in the rebound off of an Eric Avila shot in the box for the equalizer. UCLA then took a 2-1 lead into the locker room at halftime after Sal Zizzo left a ball off for Jason Leopoldo in the box for the score. UCSB's comeback effort was dealt a serious blow in the second half when junior defender Greg Curry was issued his second yellow card, forcing the Gauchos to play a man down. Santa Barbara still managed several good looks at the net, but Brian Perk was tremendous in goal for the Bruins, recording nine saves. David Estrada put the finishing touches on the victory with a goal in the 88th minute and UCSB's winless streak against UCLA extended to 17 games.

Gauchos Handle Conference-Leading UC Irvine
UCSB responded to the loss with arguably its best performance of the year, limiting the nation's 10th-ranked scoring offense to just two shots in a 2-0 win over conference-leading UC Irvine. Sophomore forward Nick Perera scored early in the first half and then put the game out of reach in the second, as the Gauchos scored more than one goal for just the fourth time this season. With their two top goal scorers in Matt Murphy and Brad Evans out serving red card suspensions, the Anteaters struggled to get things going offensively and could only muster one quality scoring opportunity. The two shots the Gauchos allowed were the lowest this season by an opponent, eclipsing their previous low of four in the win over Cal Poly September 6. Goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and the Santa Barbara defense posted their sixth shutout of the season in the win and own the nation's 22nd-best shutout percentage at .50. The Gauchos have not lost to the Anteaters since they suffered their first defeat of the year to UCI in 2004.

UCSB Reclaims Big West's Top Spot
With the win over UC Irvine, UCSB improved to 3-1-0 in Big West play and moved back into first place in the conference standings after a one-week absence. Picked to take home the conference crown for the fifth consecutive year, the Gauchos dropped out of the top spot last week after falling 5-0 to reigning Big West champion Cal State Northridge September 27. Santa Barbara won its first two conference match ups of the year, defeating Cal Poly 2-0 September 6, before outlasting Cal State Fullerton 2-1 in double overtime September 21. The Gauchos are currently in first place with nine points along with Irvine, who is also 3-1-0 and takes the second spot after losing for the first time in league play Saturday. CSUN is in third place in the conference standings with eight points at 2-0-2. With the exception of the final two weeks of last season and last week's absence, UCSB has held at least a share of the conference lead dating back to the start of the 2004 season.

Record Crowd Shows Up For UCLA
Although UCSB lost a tough one to UCLA last week, there was a lot for head coach Tim Vom Steeg and the Gaucho coaching staff to be pleased about. Among them would be the fact that UCSB set a new regular season attendance record for the second consecutive game. After a school-record 3,577 fans were on hand to watch the Gauchos defeat Michigan 1-0 September 30, an astounding 5,475 packed Harder Stadium last Thursday night as UCSB took on the Bruins in the NSCAA College Soccer Match of the Week. The previous high of 3,506 came against the boys from Westwood in a 2-0 loss back in 1995. The all-time Harder Stadium record for attendance was set in 2004, when 11,215 fans watched Santa Barbara defeat Virginia Commonwealth 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. Whether it was the draw of UCLA or the chance for the Gaucho faithful to get their mugs on national television or both, the program took a huge stride towards accomplishing its goal of leading the nation in attendance in 2006.

Offense Picking Up Speed?
When the Gaucho offense pushed through with two goals in the win over the Big West Conference leaders UC Irvine, it was only the fourth time this season that it had scored more than once in a game. Entering last Saturday's match with the Anteaters, the Santa Barbara offense had produced one goal or less in eight of its 10 contests since opening the season with a 5-0 thrashing of No. 7 Akron. On the year, UCSB has scored a total of 16 goals in 12 games for a 1.3 goals per game average. The good news is that three of Santa Barbara's four games in which the offense scored at least twice have come against Big West competition. With its non-conference schedule wrapped up this season and UC Riverside--who is allowing an average of 2.2 goals per game--on the horizon, UCSB's offense should be rounding into full swing for the conference stretch run.

How May I Assist You?
Senior midfielder Bryan Byrne has been setting the table for his teammates all season and leads the team and the Big West with six assists. After finishing 2005 as the only player in the conference to tally at least six goals and six assists, the Castledermot, Ireland native has already racked up that many this year after recording an assist in two of the Gauchos' last three contests. Byrne touched the ball to Jon Curry for the game-winner in the 104th minute against Michigan September 30 and was credited with an assist on Eric Frimpong's goal against No. 7 UCLA last week. Although he has only netted one goal this season--UCSB's first in a 2-1 win over Cal State Fullerton September 21--he is second on the squad with a total of eight points and has been an invaluable part of the offense, setting up 37.5 % of the Gauchos' goals scored in 2006.

Meet Mr. Perera
If those who follow UCSB soccer did not know sophomore forward Nick Perera before last week, they certainly do now. The native of Madrid, Spain was named the Big West Conference Player of the Week on Monday after his performance against Top 15 opponents UCLA and UC Irvine last week. Perera led the Gauchos with four shots in the 3-1 loss to the seventh-ranked Bruins and had an excellent opportunity to tie the game in the second half, but was denied after an amazing save by the UCLA keeper. He followed that effort with the breakout performance of his career, scoring a pair of goals in Santa Barbara's 2-0 win over the 15th-ranked Anteaters. Perera collected a rebound in the box, crossed over splitting two defenders and sent the ball past UCI's keeper to the left post for the eventual game-winner in the 15th minute. Later in the second half, "Belgium" put the game out of reach for the Anteaters, taking a goal kick on the run and dishing out to Eric Frimpong on the right wing. He got it back in the box and chipped it over the keeper's head for the final 2-0 advantage. Perera is currently second on the team with three goals this season and has one assist for a total of seven points.

Rising to the Occasion
In addition to Perera having a breakout week, senior midfielder Eric Frimpong turned in two solid performances against UCLA and UC Irvine, as well. The Sunyani, Ghana native was directly involved in two of the Gauchos' three goals last week, netting Santa Barbara's only goal against the Bruins, and assisting on Perera's second strike against the Anteaters to get in the scoring column for the first time this season. After fellow midfielder Eric Avila's shot was stopped by the UCLA goalkeeper, Frimpong was there to collect the rebound and put it home, tying the score at 1-1 at the 23:12 mark last Thursday. The goal was the first of the season for Frimpong after he found the net twice in 2005. Against Irvine, he took a pass from Perera just before entering the box on the right wing and laid it off back in front of the keeper, giving UCSB some more breathing room in the 69th minute. Frimpong has played in all 12 of the Gauchos' matches and became the ninth player to score a goal this season.