October 30, 2007

Defending Champs Travel To UC Irvine Before Showdown With Cal Poly This Week

Oct. 30, 2007

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The Schedule
Match No. 15
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
No. 12 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at UC Irvine Anteaters
Anteater Stadium
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.

Match No. 16
Saturday, November 3, 2007
No. 12 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. No. 30 Cal Poly Mustangs
Harder Stadium
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.

Gauchos On the Air and Web
For UCSB fans that cannot make it to out to Harder Stadium Saturday, you need not worry. KCSB's dynamic team of broadcasters will be covering the Gauchos as they battle their Central Coast rivals with first place in the Big West standings on the line once again this week. John Greely and Juan Salas will have the call live in an internet only broadcast. Fans can listen to the match online by logging on to www.kcsb.org.

Gauchos Bully the Matadors, 3-0
For the second time in the last three weeks, UC Santa Barbara had just one match on the slate, but the Gauchos made it count, posting a 3-0 win over rival Cal State Northridge in front of 1,758 rowdy fans at Harder Stadium Saturday night. Ciaran O'Brien continued his recent hot streak, scoring two of UCSB's three goals and registering an assist on the third. The sophomore midfielder put home what became the game-winner on a free kick in the 20th minute and put the game out of reach with a second goal in the 71st. Senior forward Tino Nuñez also found the net, scoring Santa Barbara's second goal of the evening in the 68th minute. The Gauchos out-shot the Matadors 10-2 in the opening period and held an 18-8 advantage for the game. Freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner had a tremendous performance between the posts, recording five saves, which is one off his career-best, on the way to his fifth shutout of the season. The 3-0 win was the Gauchos' largest margin of victory over the Matadors in the Tim Vom Steeg era. With a second straight victory overall, UCSB improved to a season-high five games over the .500 mark at 8-3-3.

Scouting the Anteaters
• UCSB travels to UC Irvine Wednesday in the second and final meeting between the two programs this season. The Gauchos and Anteaters will clash for the 44th time in an all-time series that Santa Barbara leads 28-11-3. UCSB defeated UCI 4-0 at Harder Stadium in the first match-up this season led by Chris Pontius' first-career hat trick. Alfonso Motagalvan also found the net as the Gauchos routed the Anteaters in front of a record crowd of 5,543 in the Fox Soccer Channel Game of the Week October 3.

• UCI enters Wednesday's contest with an overall record of 6-4-4 and a 1-3-2 mark against league foes. The Anteaters, who are currently in sixth place in the Big West standings, have just one win in their last nine games and dropped a 2-1 decision at UC Davis Saturday.

• Irvine has outscored its opponents by a narrow 21-18 mark and rank fourth in the Big West scoring 1.5 goals per game. Junior midfielder Matt Murphy paces the Anteater offense with a team-high six goals and two assists for 14 points, while freshman forward Spencer Thompson has found the net four times in 2007. Rookie Pat Barton has been the man between the posts, starting 11 of UCI's 14 contests and brings a 1.11 goals against average with 41 saves and three shutouts into Wednesday's match.

Scouting the Mustangs
• After its bout with UC Irvine, Santa Barbara will return to Harder Stadium to host Cal Poly Saturday night in a battle of the Big West's top two teams. The Gauchos have gotten the better of the Mustangs over the years and lead the overall series 37-13-2. UCSB had defeated Cal Poly 12 straight times before falling for the first and only time in conference play this season in front of a school record crowd of 7,143 in San Luis Obispo October 17. The Gauchos were without All-American defender Andy Iro and allowed two goals on seven Mustang shots in the 2-1 loss.

• Cal Poly enters competition this week with a record of 9-1-3 overall and a 4-0-3 mark in Big West play. The Mustangs have not won since defeating the Gauchos two weeks ago, posting ties with UC Irvine and UC Riverside, and will play at Cal State Northridge Wednesday before the showdown in Santa Barbara Saturday. Cal Poly has already set a school record for wins as a member of the Big West Conference this season.

• The Mustangs have outscored their opponents 23-10 entering play this week and boast the Big West's top defense with a team goals against average of 0.77 with eight shutouts. Offensively, freshman forward David Zamora has been the guy to watch and leads the squad with five goals and four assists, while fellow rookie Kyle Montgomery is not far behind with four goals. Junior goalkeeper Eric Branagan-Franco has started all but one game and owns a goals against average of 0.74 with 45 saves and league-best seven shutouts.

Back On Top
Not only did the Gauchos beat their biggest rivals soundly last weekend, but they reclaimed the top spot in the Big West Conference standings with the win. UCSB entered play last week one game behind Cal Poly in the standings, but moved back in front after the Mustangs tied UC Riverside 0-0 in San Luis Obispo Saturday night. Santa Barbara now leads the conference with 16 points at 5-1-1, one point ahead of Cal Poly with 15 at 4-0-3 against league competition. UC Davis is a distant third with 10 points at 3-3-1 and no other squad has more than seven points after that. Picked to take home the Big West crown for the sixth consecutive year, UCSB has five conference games remaining with three on the road and two at home. The only team in the Big West with five wins, the Gauchos have owned the top position in the conference standings for all but one week in 2007.

Up In the Standings, Up In the Polls
Although last Saturday's win did not come against a ranked opponent, Cal State Northridge is much better than its record shows and UCSB's 3-0 decision did, in fact, translate into a climb in the national polls. The Gauchos enter the Big West Conference stretch run having moved up in the rankings after falling the two previous weeks and are the No. 15-ranked squad in this week's NSCAA/adidas coaches poll, which is up four spots from their No. 19 position last week. In the media polls, Santa Barbara climbed to No. 12 in the current College Soccer News Top 30, moving up three spots from last week's ranking of No. 15. UCSB climbed two spots and holds the No. 14 position in this week's Soccer America Top 25, up from the No. 16 slot the team enjoyed last week. Lastly, the Gauchos are the proud owners of the No. 14 spot in the current SoccerTimes Top 25 after climbing three spots from No. 17 to round out the polls.

Thats More Like It
The Gaucho defense found its form again against CSUN, posting a shutout Saturday after allowing five goals in the three previous matches coming in -- the highest total of any three game stretch this season. Three-time All-American Andy Iro and the Santa Barbara backline were tremendous, limiting the Matadors to just two shots in the decisive first half and eight total for the match. In fact, four of Northridge's attempts came in the last 17 minutes after UCSB was forced to play a man down when Eric Avila was issued a red card. But the defense held and goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner made two of his six saves to preserve the shutout. The Gauchos have now recorded a shutout in four of their five wins in conference play and have blanked the opposition five times overall, a total that ranks third in the Big West.

The Trend Continues
Trying hard not to beat a dead horse on this point, its worth noting once again how successful the Gauchos have been when scoring two or more goals in 2007. After UCSB's convincing 3-0 shutout victory over CSUN last week, the Gauchos have now scored at least twice in nine of their 14 matches this season and remain unbeaten in those contests at 7-0-2. Flipping the coin, the defending champs have a record of just 1-3-1 when scoring less than two goals and have found the net a total of just twice in the three losses. Furthermore, UCSB has averaged nearly three goals per match in the team's eight wins and, not surprisingly, averaged under a goal per match in the three losses. Santa Barbara ranks second in the Big West with 30 goals scored and a per game average of 2.14 through 14 matches. A total of 10 different players have found the net this season.

O'Brien Puts Nation, Conference On Notice
On Monday, sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week and earned his second Big West Player of the Week award this season for his performance against Cal State Northridge last Saturday. For the second week in a row, the transfer from the University of San Diego paved the way for the UCSB offense and was directly involved in all three goals in the Gauchos' 3-0 win over rival Northridge. O'Brien scored what became the game-winner in a second consecutive match, punching in a free kick past Matador keeper Kevin Guppy in the 20th minute after CSUN was whistled for a foul just outside the box. He was also credited with an assist on Santa Barbara's second goal in the 68th, and scored again in the 71st when he finished the rebound off a shot by Eric Avila to put the game out of reach. O'Brien is now second on the team with five goals this season, with three of those coming in the Gauchos' last two contests, and leads the squad with six assists and 43 shots. The native of Federal Way, Wash. has either scored or assisted on UCSB's last six goals spanning the last three matches. O'Brien also took home the Big West's weekly honor after scoring a goal and tallying an assist on the game-winner in UCSB's 2-1 overtime win over No. 3 SMU September 14.

Forward Thinking
Tino Nuñez has played an integral part in UCSB's offense in 2007 and whether its finishing or setting the table for his teammates, he has made a tremendous impact during his senior campaign. After recording an assist on both of the Gauchos' goals in a 2-1 win at UC Riverside October 20, the Long Beach, Calif. native got back in the scoring column again in the 3-0 win over Cal State Northridge last week. Nuñez scored UCSB's second goal of the match, finishing a feed from sophomore midfielder Jon Curry after Ciaran O'Brien's initial attempt was denied by the Matadors' keeper. The goal was his fourth of the season and he has now more than doubled his career total coming into the season (3). Nuñez ranks third on the team both in terms of goals scored and assists with four and ranks fourth overall with 12 points. The Gauchos are 3-0-1 when Nuñez finds the net this season.

Keeping It Real
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner has been very effective for UCSB this season, starting all 14 matches between the posts. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native has very respectable numbers and enters competition this week ranking third among Big West keepers in terms of goals against average at 0.88 and shutouts with five. Rueckner was impressive in the Gauchos' 3-0 home win over Cal State Northridge last week, recording fives saves on the way to a fourth shutout in seven confernece matches to start his career. The five saves against the Matadors were one shy of his season high that came in Santa Barbara's 2-2 at Stanford in the season opener. Rueckner has only had to make more than three saves on three occasions this season and ranks sixth in the conference with 35.

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.

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