No. 15 UCSB Enters Final Week Hoping to Make a Second Straight NCAA Tournament
Nov. 11, 2003
They turn the corner...and down the stretch they come!
Entering the final week of the 2003 regular season, there are four teams in the Big West Conference who mathmatically still have a chance at the title. Cal State Northridge is the current front-runner with 16 points (5 wins, 1 tie), just one point ahead of UC Santa Barbara (5 wins). The Gauchos have won two straight conference crowns and hope they will get a third. In order for UCSB to win the title it needs to win one of its games this week and atleast tie the other, while Northridge will need to drop one of their two. Should the Gauchos win both of their contests, the only help they will need is for CSUN to not win one of its two remaining games for the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Now that takes care of first and second place, third and fourth are occupied by both of UCSB's opponents this week, UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton, respectively. With Irvine's 12 points, they need to gain three points on the Gauchos, and four points on the Matadors to claim the title, meaning they need Northride to at-the-most tie one of its games and Santa Barbara to lose one of its two while winning both of its own. Fullerton on the other hand needs UCI, CSUN and UCSB to lose on all of their games, with the one exception being a Irvine victory over Santa Barbara. Schedule wise, the Matadors are at Cal Poly on Wednesday and at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, the Anteaters are at UC Riverside on during the week and hosts UCSB on the weekend, and lastly the Titans travel to Harder Stadium on Wednesday and before hosting Northridge to close out the regular season. Confused?
The 15th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team will honor its seven departing seniors on its annual senior night this Wednesday when it hosts Cal State Fullerton. The Gauchos who will be playing their final regular season game in Harder Stadium this week are midfielders Matt Kubota, David McGill, Memo Arzate, and Darren Doi, defenders Pete O'Hare and Kale Major, and forward Gene Deering. Entering the match, both McGill and Arzate have proven themselves as two of the best assist men in both school and Big West Conference history, with Arzate holding the all-time mark at 34 in his career and McGill placing sixth at 21. Remarkably both players have only spent two years at UCSB. Kubota, Doi and Deering are the only four year players on this years squad, with all three taking pitch more than 65 times in their careers, helping Santa Barbara develop into one of the top Division I programs in the nation. Major and O'Hare, both walk-ons on this years squad have both contributed to a Gauchos defense that is often ranked amongst the top in the nation. Kickoff for the match scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with festivities starting approximately fifteen minutes before.
Yeah, but can they dance?!
So what if the Gauchos don't claim a third straight Big West Championship an an automatic berth into the 48 team NCAA Tournament, will they still make it? The way things stand right now I would say an at-large berth is a very good possibilty with another win this week. UCSB is currently has a fifth-rating in the RPI ranking published by soccerratings.com, in addition they are ranked fourth in the Far West Region by the NSCAA, which is often referred to as the one of, if not the toughest regions in the nation. Last season before the Big West Conference had yet to receive its automatic berth, the NCAA placed both Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge in the big dance. This season the Big West has improved its standing in the nation, currently rated at the fifth most powerful confernece in the nation by soccerratings.com, in fact three of the top-five (Pac 10, WCC and BW) are all from the Far West Region. And lastly, the Gauchos' 13 wins ties as the 12th most in Division I.
Some of the Best in the Big West, and in the Nation
With two games remaining in the 2003 regular season a number of UCSB players have made their mark in the NCAA, Big West and Gaucho record books. Highlighted by senior playmaker Memo Arzate who has been adding to his Big West career assists record of 34, having accomplished the feat in under two seasons. But the most remarkable of Arzate's numbers is his current 0.87 assists per game average, the fifth highest average in the 50+ year history of NCAA men's soccer. Tied for tenth all-time at UCSB with 54 career points (10 goals, 34 assists), Arzate is just two points short of the Big West's Top-Ten. Fellow midfielder David McGill's 21 career assists are the sixth-best on both the Gaucho and conference charts. Junior forward Drew McAthy has had another standout year up top for Santa Barbara, currently tied for tenth in the nation with 13 goals, the Huntington Beach native has tallied 34 goals in his three-year career, placing him fourth all-time in conference and third all-time in school history. Adding in his nine assists for 77 total points, he is now third all-time at UCSB and fourth in the conference books. Having already earned his spot in the record books with his goals against average and shutout numbers on both a seasonal and career level, junior goalkeeper Dan Kennedy moved into second all-time in Gaucho history in minutes player by a goalie with 5124, just over 1000 shy of the record-holder, his coach Ryan Sparre. And this week Kennedy should move into the BWC's top-ten in career saves, now with 187 he needs just three to add his name to the list.
UCSB will be looking to exact some revenge this week against the teams who snapped the two streaks that they were the most proud of. Wednesday's opponent, Cal State Fullerton, broke the Gauchos 14-game conference unbeaten streak with a 4-1 win in Fullerton under the smokey skies of Southern California, leaving Santa Barbara just two decisions short of the NCAA's 20th-longest such streak. UC Irvine took away the Gauchos' most prized mark having never lost a conference game at home since the reinstatement of BW men's soccer, in fact prior to the 1-0 loss the the Anteaters, UCSB had not lost a home game since the middle of the 2001 season. Santa Barbara will travel to Irvine Saturday for its final regular season game of the 2003 season. The Titans have been led this season by forward's Brent Whitfield and Ignacio Cid, Whitfield has tallied a team leading nine goals while Cid has netted six of his own while dishing off for another three. Sam Reynolds has come on strong lately for CSF, earning conference player of the week honors a couple of weeks ago and posting 1.39 goals against average. Unbeaten in the last four matches the Titans have outscored their opponents 9-3 since their last loss. UC Irvine's Sebastian Galmarini proved to be the Gaucho killer when the Anteaters were in SB, scoring the only goal of the match, and his seven goals lead the team. After struggling in the preseason, UCI has played well in Big West action scoring 12 of its 18 goals on the year in conference play.