No. 10 UCSB Looks To Move Closer To Another Big West Title At Fullerton Saturday

No. 10 UCSB Looks To Move Closer To Another Big West Title At Fullerton Saturday

Nov. 7, 2007

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The Schedule
Match No. 17
Saturday, November 10, 2007
No. 10 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Cal State Fullerton Titans
Titan Stadium
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.

Gauchos on the Air and Web
For Santa Barbara fans that cannot make it to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, you need not worry. There are several options to catch the Gauchos' clash with the Titans. As always, KCSB's dynamic team of broadcasters will be following UCSB on the road this weekend and will broadcast the match live on KCSB 91.9 in Santa Barbara. Fans can also listen to the game online by logging on to Chris Hoffman and Juan Salas will have the call live from Titan Stadium as the Gauchos zero in on another Big West Championship. Additionally, UCSB fans can watch -- that's right watch -- the game online by logging on to this week. The Big West Conference and CSTV are partnering to offer the match as a pay-per-view event through BigWest.TV. The game will be available on a pay-per-view basis for $4.95 or as part of the standard BigWest.TV package.

Peaking At the Right Time
UC Santa Barbara continued to dominate the competition last week, posting a pair of 3-1 victories over Big West foes UC Irvine and Cal Poly to take a commanding lead in the conference standings. Brennan Tennelle scored his first two goals of the season and Ciaran O'Brien recorded a goal and an assist, as the Gauchos erased an early 1-0 deficit and went on to defeat the Anteaters in Irvine last Wednesday. UCSB showed its ability to bounce back again against Cal Poly in front of a record crowd Saturday, with Chris Pontius, Andy Iro, and Ciaran O'Brien scoring goals in a span of just over five minutes during the second half after the Mustangs had taken a 1-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. With the thrilling victory, the Gauchos avenged their only loss in conference play this season -- a 2-1 defeat at Cal Poly Oct. 17 -- and moved six points ahead of the second place Mustangs in the Big West standings. The Gauchos have now won four straight and seven of their last nine overall to improve to 10-3-3 in 2007. UCSB is narrowing in on a fifth Big West title since 2001 and currently sits atop the conference standings at 7-1-1. No other team has more than five league victories. With three goals in each of the last three games, Santa Barbara seems to be peaking at just the right time, much like the team did at this time last season. The 2006 Gauchos won five of their final six regular season games before tearing through the postseason on the way to the national championship.

Scouting the Titans
• After defeating the Anteaters and Mustangs, UCSB has just one match on the slate this week and will travel to Cal State Fullerton this Saturday. The Gauchos and Titans will meet for the 45th time with Fullerton holding the narrowest of leads in the all-time series, 22-21-2. Despite the Titans overall success over the years, the Gauchos have had their number lately, winning the last seven meetings by a combined score of 15-4 with five shutouts. UCSB has not lost to Fullerton since dropping a 4-1 decision at Titan Stadium Oct. 25, 2003. Chris Pontius capped off an ubelievable week with the game-winner in the 78th minute to lift the Gauchos to a 1-0 win over the Titans at Harder Stadium in the first match-up on Oct. 6.

• CSUF enters competition this week with an overall record of 7-8-2 in head coach Bob Amman's second season at the helm. The Titans are currently fourth in the Big West Conference standings after posting a 3-1 road victory over UC Irvine on Saturday. Fullerton has won three of its last four overall after going winless in six straight from Sept. 29 through Oct. 13. The Titans will also have the week off before the Gauchos invade Titan Stadium on Saturday.

• Fullerton has been outscored 25-20 through 17 games in 2007 and ranks last in the Big West averaging 1.18 goals per game. Sophomore defender Shay Spitz leads the team with four goals and has one assist for nine points, while six players follow with two goals apiece. Sophomore midfielder Michael Farfan and senior defender German Moreno each have two goals and hold the team lead in assists with two. Senior Brent Douglas has started 11 games in goal and owns a 6-3-0 record with 35 saves, three shutouts, and is the Big West's leader in terms of goals against average at 0.70.

Gauchos Draw, Records Fall
For the second time this season, a record crowd was on hand at Harder Stadium as the Santa Barbara community came out in astounding numbers to watch UCSB take on Central Coast rival Cal Poly Saturday night. After the Mustangs set a new Big West regular season record with 7,143 fans in attendance for their 2-1 win over the Gauchos in San Luis Obispo Oct. 17, UCSB soccer enthusiasts were sure to remember that loss and come out to cheer on the Gauchos in the rematch. Surpassing all expectations once again, 8,102 strong packed Harder Stadium for the home team's thrilling 3-1 comeback victory. The number not only shattered UCSB's previous regular season high of 5,543 that came out against UC Irvine earlier this season, but also eclipsed the all-time league record that Cal Poly had held for exactly 18 days. 8,102 is also the biggest crowd to watch a college soccer game anywhere in the country this season and is the largest turnout for a regular season game since a match-up between Fresno State and San Francisco drew 12,224 on Sept. 27, 1987. The all-time top five Division I men's soccer crowds excluding the NCAA Tournament are listed below:

1. 22,512 - St. Louis vs. SIU Edwardsville - Oct. 30, 1980
2. 12,224 - Fresnot State vs. San Francisco - Sept. 27, 1987
3. 9,200 - Connecticut vs. Alabama A&M - Oct. 24, 1982
4. 8,102 - Cal Poly vs. UC Santa Barbara - Nov. 3, 2007
5. 7,428 - Virginia vs. Clemson - Sept. 30, 2006

UCSB Eyes Another Title
With a two-game lead in the Big West standings with just three games remaining, UCSB is in excellent position to win another conference championship in 2007. The Gauchos can clinch a fifth title since the Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001 with two wins or one win and a tie in their final three matches. Santa Barbara will also be crowned the champion in the event that the team goes on to finish in a first place tie with either Cal Poly or UC Davis as UCSB owns tiebreakers over both schools. The Gauchos will wrap up the regular season against against Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, and UC Riverside -- all teams they have already defeated this season. If Santa Barbara can take care of business against three teams with a .500 combined winning percentage, head coach Tim Vom Steeg's team will advance to a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament.

Poll Watch
With convincing wins over UC Irvine and No. 15 Cal Poly, the Gauchos climbed in the national polls for the second consecutive week and have positioned themselves to enter the postseason among the nation's elite. UCSB enters Saturday's match with Cal State Fullerton as the No. 13th-ranked squad in this week's NSCAA/adidas coaches poll, which is up two spots from its No. 15 position last week. In the media polls, Santa Barbara climbed one spot to No. 11 in the current College Soccer News Top 30, moving up from last week's ranking of No. 12. In their biggest climb of the week, the Gauchos moved up four spots and now hold the No. 10 position in this week's Soccer America Top 25, up from the No. 14 slot the team enjoyed last week. Lastly, UCSB came in at No. 12 in the current SoccerTimes Top 25 after climbing two spots from No. 14 a week ago to round out the polls.

Scoring In Bunches
The UCSB offense has shown the ability to score in bunches this season and there was no better example than in the second half of Saturday's 3-1 win over Cal Poly. All three of the Gauchos' goals came during a 5:09 stretch after halftime, beginning with Chris Pontius' score in the 60th minute. Andy Iro then found the net 4:37 later and Ciaran O'Brien put the finishing touches on the offensive outburst with a goal of his own 32 seconds after that. Santa Barbara has now scored consecutive goals less than 20 minutes apart in a total of nine games this season, with back-to-back scores coming inside five minutes in five of those contests. In fact, the Gauchos frenzied offense has struck in victories over Columbia, UC Irvine, UC Davis, CSUN, and most recently, Cal Poly.

Down, But Never Out
When comparing the 2007 squad to last year's national championship team, one thing jumps out about this group after is latest wins over UC Irvine and Cal Poly: this team can play from behind. The Gauchos spotted the Anteaters and Mustangs one goal leads but came back to win both contests by a 3-1 count. The pair of victories were UCSB's first come-from-behind wins this season, which is a great sign considering last year's squad did not come back to win a game in which it was trailing until the first round of the NCAA Tournament. UCSB trailed seven times during the regular season in 2006 and went on to lose all seven contests. The Gauchos finally erased a 1-0 deficit to defeat San Diego State 2-1 in the first round and then bounced back from a 2-1 halftime hole to defeat Northwestern 3-2 and advance to the program's second College Cup. If UCSB wants to return to the national championship stage, the team will have to be able to play from behind.

O'Brien Does It Again
Early this week, sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien was named to both the College Soccer News and Soccer America National Teams of the Week and garnered his third Big West Player of the Week award this season for his performance in the Gauchos' wins over UC Irvine and Cal Poly. The transfer from the University of San Diego has been the man to watch on offense for Santa Barbara over the last several games and took home all three honors for the second consecutive week. O'Brien scored what became the game-winner in a third consecutive match, finding the net in the 49th minute against the Anteaters in Irvine Wednesday before connecting with Brennan Tennelle for the Gauchos' third goal in the 53rd. The Federal Way, Wash. native had a goal and an assist once again Saturday against Cal Poly, finding Andy Iro for the game-winning goal in the 64th minute and then scoring his seventh goal of the season on an incredible bending shot from the right side less than a minute later. O'Brien has taken over the Big West lead with 22 points on seven goals and a conference-high eight assists. He has scored a goal in each of the last four games, all Gaucho victories, and five of his seven goals have come over that span. Santa Barbara has not lost when O'Brien has found the net this season, posting a record of 5-0-1.

A Flair For the Dramatic
Three-time All-American Andy Iro has been a huge part of the Gauchos' rise onto the national scene over the last few years and the senior defender seems to save his offensive contributions for the biggest stages. The Liverpool, England native could not have picked a better time to score his first goal of the season, punching in the eventual game-winner in the 64th minute after receiving a pass from Ciaran O'Brien in the box in Saturday's 3-1 win over Cal Poly. It was only fitting that Iro was the one to deliver the knockout blow against the Mustangs after he was forced to sit out the first meeting serving a red card suspension. Without the reigning Big West Defensive Player of the Year anchoring the backline, Cal Poly scored twice on seven shots and went on to hand UCSB its only loss in conference play so far this season. The goal was Iro's 10th during his four-year career at UCSB and first since he scored the game-winner in the 68th minute against San Diego State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

Mr. Late October/November
Another Gaucho that found the net for the first time last week was senior midfielder Brennan Tennelle. Entering last Wednesday's match at UC Irvine having scored just one goal in each of his first three seasons in the blue and gold, Tennelle scored twice to deliver UCSB a 3-1 road victory over the Anteaters. The San Diego native scored on a free kick in the 27th minute to tie the score at 1-1 and then finished the rebound off a Ciaran O'Brien shot in the 53rd to put the game out of reach. Tennelle became the 11th different Gaucho to find the net in 2007 and now has five career goals. He also has three assists and ranks sixth on the team with seven points this season. The defensive-minded midfielder has made a habit of picking up his offense in the final weeks of the season and has scored all five of his goals in the final week of October of in the month of November. Tennelle registered a goal and an assist in UCSB's regular season finale against UC Riverside on Nov. 4 last season.

Schedule Note
UCSB's match at Cal State Northridge originally rescheduled for Wednesday, November 14th has been rescheduled again. Next week's contest has been moved to Tuesday, November 13, with kickoff still slated for 1:00 p.m at Matador Soccer Field. The match had originally been scheduled as the Matador's conference home-opener on October 10th, but was postponed after the unfortunate death of Northridge player Jay Singh.

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.