15th-Ranked Gauchos Enter a Crucial Week in Hopes of a Third Straight Big West Crown
Nov. 4, 2003
The Record: Overall 12-3-1 Big West 4-2-0
This Week's Schedule
Wednesday, November 5th
No. 15 UC Santa Barbara 12-3-1 / 4-2-0, 1st - Big West
at No. 21 Cal State Northridge 10-3-2 / 3-2-1, 3rd (t) - Big West
1:00 p.m. at CSN's Matador Soccer Field
Saturday, November 8th
No. 15 UC Santa Barbara 12-3-1 / 4-2-0, 1st - Big West
vs. UC Riverside 6-8-1 / 2-4-1, 5th (t) - Big West
7:00 p.m. at UCSB's Harder Stadium
Let the Shakedown Begin
Parity has been the key word when it comes to the Big West men's soccer standings this season. Although UC Santa Barbara has held the points lead all but four days and has never had its win total surpassed this season, the Gauchos' 12 points are just one point ahead of second place UC Irvine, and two points ahead of third place Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton. UCSB has games remaining with all three opponents within relative striking distance, starting this week with quite possibly the biggest threat, 21st-ranked Cal State Northridge.
Back in the Mix
If there was any questions as to whether midfielder David McGill was ready to return to the pitch, they have been answered. In a rain soaked Harder Stadium on Friday night, the senior from Dublin, Ireland looked to be the player he was before being injured, creating numerous scoring opportunities and tallying his sixth assist of the season. After streaking down the waterlogged sideline, McGill whipped in a perfect cross into the top 6-yard box and onto the head of Neil Jones to break the scoreless tie. Currently tied for 28th in the nation averaging 0.50 assists per game, he is just two assists short of second place in the Big West while having missed over a third of the season. Now with McGill nearly 100%, he gives opponents two players to worry about in the midfield, joining Memo Arzate, who leads the nation averaging 0.88 assists per game.
With the conditions present in last Friday's match with the University of San Francisco, in order for the Gauchos to come out with a win and snap their two-game losing trend they where going to need their big men to step up. While being dowsed with what turned out to be nearly 1.5 inches of rain, UCSB's scoring tandem of Neil Jones and Drew McAthy, neither of whom started the match, broke out of their three-game scoring slump. Jones got the offense going less than two minutes into the second half when he grabbed a McGill cross out of the air with his head and put it in the top left corner of goal to give Santa Barbara a 1-0 lead. As the rain continued to fall and the temperature dropped, USF knocked in a loose ball to knot the match at 1-1 and send the game into overtime. The Gauchos didn't waste anytime in OT, just over a minute in Memo Arzate picked up the rebound off of his own corner kick and lopped a perfect ball to the back post, setting up Drew McAthy for his sixth game-winning goal of the season. Now with 11 goals apiece, Jones and McAthy are tied for 24th in the nation with a 0.69 goals per game average, and adding in Jones' four assists, his 1.62 points per game mark is tied for 26th.
The Game That Gets Bigger and Bigger
The Gauchos travel to Northridge for a Wednesday afternoon match against the 21st ranked Matadors for the final regular season meeting between the two. Having already beaten CSN this year 3-2 before nearly 1,000 fans in Santa Barbara on October 18th, UCSB ran it's career record to 10-8-3 against the conference foe. Freshman defender Jeff Murphy netted Memo Arzate's corner kick for the game-winner in the 64th minute, giving Santa Barbara the upper hand in its race for a third straight Big West Crown. This week's showdown is a whole different story however, as UCSB will now be playing on Northridge's pitch, a place where it has not won since 2000. In 2001, the Matadors pulled out a 3-2 overtime win to hand UCSB just one of its two Big West losses that season. And last year, the game at CSN became the Gauchos' lone blemish in conference play, as the two battled to a 0-0 double-overtime time. Over the course of the last three seasons, three of the five games have been decided by one goal...or less. The Matadors are lead by freshman forward Willie Sims with seven goals, including the game-tying goal when they played in October. Junior midfielder Jesse Servin has paced the offense with eight assists, second only to UCSB playmaker Memo Arzate in the Big West. Junior Rademus Lafaurie has played all by 17 minutes beaten the pipes this season for CSN, posting a 1.31 GAA and 80.4% save percentage.
Welcome to Santa Barbara
UC Riverside enters Harder Stadium this Saturday having never defeated the Gauchos at home. In fact, UCSB has only lost once to the Highlanders, back in the 70's. Over the course of the series Santa Barbara has compiled a 10-1-0 record against UCR, including a 2-1 win earlier this season in Riverside. Forwards Neil Jones and Drew McAthy both netted goals in the match, amidst streak of three consecutive games in which both players scored a goal. Since the Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001, the Highlanders have yet to score a goal in Harder, where UCSB has beaten them by a combined 6-0 margin. The year could be different because of UCR's Luc Harrington who is third in the conference with eight goals, sitting behind the tandem of Jones and McAthy. On the other hand, the rest of the team has struggled, as a team the Highlanders have only scored eighteen goals, with freshman Edgar Alejo's four goals being the only other multi-goal total. Senior Josh Alexander has stepped for injured Charles Alamo in goal, starting the last six matches, including the UCSB match, where he made ten saves to keep UCR in the game.