November 13, 2006

17th-Ranked UCSB Faces No. 1 SMU Wednesday In Second Round of NCAA Tournament

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Nov. 13, 2006

The Schedule
NCAA Tournament Second Round
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
No. 17 UC Santa Barbara (13-7-0) at No. 1 SMU (17-1-4)
Westcott Field • Kickoff 5:00 p.m. (PT)
***Match will air live on KCSB 91.9 in Santa Barbara***

So Far, So Good
The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team was able to accomplish something it hadn't done all season in its NCAA Tournament First Round match-up with No. 30 San Diego State last Saturday: come from behind to win. For the second consecutive year, UCSB drew the SDSU at Harder Stadium to open the postseason and the result was the same, a Santa Barbara victory by a one goal margin. After the two squads battled through a scoreless first half, the Aztecs got on the board in the 55th minute when forward Freddy McDonald slipped a ball just inside the left post for the 1-0 lead. The Gauchos, who have struggled playing from behind all season, did not panic and knotted the score after senior co-captain Bryan Byrne put in the rebound off of his own corner kick from just outside the box on the left wing at 65:36. Less than three minutes later, junior defender Andy Iro punched in the game-winner at the goal line, cleaning up the rebound on an offering from Tyler Rosenlund for the final 2-1 advantage. UCSB dominated the ball in the second half and out-shot the visitors 14-3 in the decisive period. Senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish recorded five saves, including three in the first five minutes of the match. The Gauchos are now 5-0 in tournament openers and are also a perfect 5-0 at home in postseason play. Winners of six of their last seven matches and outscoring their opponents 11-3 during that span, Santa Barbara enters Wednesday's match with No. 3 seed SMU with a 13-7 overall record.

UCSB Collects Nine Conference Awards
When the annual all-conference teams and awards were announced Tuesday, the Gauchos were once again one of the Big West's most decorated squads. Highlighted by junior Andy Iro's second consecutive Defender of the Year award and senior Kyle Reynish's Co-Goalkeeper of the Year honors, a total of seven players were named to all-conference squads. In addition to Iro and Reynish, midfielders Bryan Byrne and Eric Avila were named to the first team, while midfielder Eric Frimpong, defender Jeff Murphy, and forward Bongomin Otii garnered second team accolades.

Scouting the Mustangs
• If the Gauchos want to advance past the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, they will have to go through No. 3 seed Southern Methodist University first. Wednesday's contest will mark just the 2nd meeting between the two programs, after UCSB defeated SMU in the only other match-up 1-0 on a goal by Danny Mann in Dallas in 1996.

• The Mustangs enter the postseason after finishing 17-1-4 overall and winning their first Conference USA championship at 5-1-2. Currently ranked No. 1 in the final NSCAA/adidas coaches' poll of the regular season, Southern Methodist went unbeaten in its last four and has outscored its opponents 56-11 this season. Senior midfielder Chase Wileman is the man to watch on offense, leading the team with eight goals and 12 assists , while sophomore midfielder Bruno Guarda is a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist after tallying five goals and six assists in 2006. Senior keeper Matt Wideman has started every match between the pipes and owns the nation's seventh-best goals against average at 0.51 with 67 saves and 11 shutouts. SMU ranks second nationally averaging 2.55 goals per game.

2006 In Review
After losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, the Gauchos were not a exactly a favorite to return to the College Cup in 2006. Starting the season with a No. 23 NSCAA preseason ranking, UCSB opened with a bang embarrassing then-ranked No. 7 Akron 5-0, only to fall to No. 3 Virginia 1-0 two days later in the UVa Soccer Classic title game. From there Santa Barbara won four of its next five, with the only defeat coming to No. 18 Illinois at Chicago on a fluke goal with overtime just 31 seconds away. The Gauchos opened Big West Conference play with a 2-1 double overtime victory over Cal State Fullerton September 21, but then hit a rough stretch in which they dropped three of four, including a 5-0 blunder at BWC rival Cal State Northridge and a 3-1 defeat to then No. 7 UCLA in front of a record crowd of 5,475 at Harder Stadium in the Fox Soccer Channel's Match of the Week. UCSB bounced back with an impressive 2-0 win over No. 15 UC Irvine to move into first place in the league standings, but lost to UC Riverside for the first time in 32 years October 11. That loss would prove to be the Gauchos' wake up call, as they won five of their final six--including their first victory over the Matadors since November of 2004--to claim the Big West Conference title. Four of Santa Barbara's seven losses came to squads that were ranked in the NSCAA Top 25 at the time, with five of them coming to teams in the extremely strong Far West Region.

Poll Position
After winning the Big West crown November 4, UCSB enters postseason play with national ranking of No. 17 in the most current Soccer America poll, returning to the Top 25 following a month-long absence. The Gauchos appeared in the College Soccer News Top 30 last week after winning five of six and are currently ranked No. 27 in this week's media poll. Santa Barbara has been ranked as high as No. 7 in 2006 but dropped out of all three Top 25 polls following the brutal 5-0 loss to Cal State Northridge September 27. UCSB then slipped out of the polls all together for the first time in over three years the following week after falling 3-1 at the hands of then-ranked No. 7 UCLA. Santa Barbara is not currently ranked in the NSCAA/adidas or Soccer Times coaches polls.

Sweet November
This year's appearance marks the fifth consecutive time the Gauchos have qualified for the Big Dance. After Saturday's victory over San Diego State, UCSB is a combined 8-4-0 in NCAA Tournament play dating back to 2002, the first year it advanced to the postseason, and has been very impressive in tournament openers. In fact, Santa Barbara has been perfect, posting a 5-0-0 mark in opening (first or second) rounds of the tourney. The Gauchos topped San Diego 2-0 in the first round in 2002, downed Cal 2-0 in the second round of 2003 and beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2-1 in the second round two years ago. 2004 was definitely a year to remember, as the Gauchos were awarded the No. 9 seed and advanced to the National Championship match where they fell to Indiana 3-2 in penalty kicks to end the season as the National Runners-Up. Last season UCSB defeated SDSU 2-0 at Harder Stadium in the first round before falling 3-2 at Big West rival Cal State Northridge 3-2 in round two.

Sometimes the Best Offensive is a Great Defensive
One of the most common themes this season has been the fact that when the Gauchos win, it is usually by a shutout. Entering the postseason, UCSB was playing near perfect defense and had recorded a shutout in five of its last six games--all of which were victories. Although they allowed two goals in the November 1 loss at 18th-ranked UC Irvine, the Gauchos bounced back and shut down UC Riverside in a 4-0 romp in the regular season finale. For the season, 11 of UCSB's 13 victories have been shutouts, with only Cal State Fullerton and now San Diego State finding the net in a Gaucho win. With 11 no-nos in 19 contests in 2006, Santa Barbara led the Big West Conference and ranks 8th nationally with a 0.58 shutout percentage. It is safe to say that the Gauchos' formula for success has been keep their opponents out of the nets.

Gauchos Capture Elusive Come-From-Behind Win
While Santa Barbara is 13-1 in games in which they have scored first this season, the Gauchos had yet to win a game in which they were trailing at any point entering last Saturday's contest with the Aztecs. In fact, UCSB had come back to tie a game after trailing only once this season, getting the equalizer from Eric Frimpong in the 24th minute against then-ranked No. 7 UCLA October 5, before ultimately falling 3-1. And of the Gauchos' seven losses in 2006, three were by a 1-0 final decision in which they failed to finish on their scoring opportunities. Santa Barbara finally got over the hump against SDSU, scoring a pair of goals in a span of less than three minutes after the Aztecs took a 1-0 lead ten minutes into the second period. The win was the first come-from-behind victory of the season for the Gauchos and first since they bounced back after an early UC Davis goal in 3-2 comeback win October 26, 2005.

The Heart of a Champion
If you are going to be successful and advance deep into the NCAA Tournament, it is important to be able to win close games. UCSB has played a total of 20 games this season and 12 of those have been decided by a single goal. The Gauchos own a 8-4 mark in those matches, with three of the four losses coming on the road. Santa Barbara has dropped 1-0 decisions at then-ranked No. 3 Virginia August 27, at UC Davis September 23 and at UC Riverside October 11 and lost 2-1 to No. 18 UIC at Harder Stadium September 8. On the flip side, following last week's 2-1 victory over San Diego State, eight of UCSB's 12 victories have come by a one goal margin--five of them by a 1-0 count--so this year's team definitely has experience playing in close games.

Iro Insider
Preseason All-American and MAC Hermann Trophy Candidate Andy Iro has been a force all season defensively, anchoring a backline that led the BWC after allowing just 16 goals for a 0.84 goals against average. But it was Iro's play on the offensive end of the field against the Aztecs that was perhaps his greatest contribution this season. The Liverpool, England native could not have picked a better time to register his first goal of the year, netting the game-winner in the 67th minute of the Gauchos 2-1 first round victory. Iro's goal came just 1:48 seconds after Bryan Byrne's equalizer. Iro was selected to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week for his performance.

A Second Year Veteran
Sophomore midfielder Eric Avila has been on a tear as of late and has scored three goals in the last seven games. After he scored twice in the Gauchos' season-opener against Akron, all signs pointed to the 2005 Big West Freshman of the Year having an amazing follow-up campaign as a sophomore. Like most of the squad in 2006, the San Diego native struggled to find the net at times, but finally broke through with the game-winner against Cal Poly October 14 before scoring the game's only goal in a 1-0 win over Cal State Northridge 11 days later. In the second half of the season finale against UC Riverside, Avila collected a pass from Brennan Tennelle and fired from 15 yards out to give Santa Barbara a 3-0 lead. Avila leads the Gauchos with 50 shots and is second on the squad with five goals for a total of 13 points this season. One of only three players to start every game in 2006, UCSB is 4-0 when Avila shows up in the scoring column. He led the way offensively against the Aztecs with four shots, three of which were on frame, and had two excellent looks at the net but was denied by a great save both times.

He's A Keeper!
Senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has been the man all season between the posts and has been absolutely brilliant, playing every one of a possible 1828 plus minutes. The Valencia, Calif. native held UCSB's opponents scoreless six times in the final eight games of the regular season and has recorded a total of 11 shutouts in 2006. Two weeks removed from earning a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week and garnering Big West Player of the Week honors, Reynish made five saves against SDSU, including three very early on. Reynish's 11 shutouts in 19 games is a new career-high and led the Big West. In addition, the 2006 BWC Co-Goalkeeper of the Year ranked among the conference's top-two keeper's in virtually every statistical category, including goals against average (0.83), saves (74), and save percentage (.822).

Byrne, Baby Byrne
All four of the seniors on the Gauchos' roster have led by example in 2006 and co-captain Bryan Byrne has been no exception. The Castledermot, Ireland native is tied for first on the team in overall scoring with 13 points after scoring the Gauchos' first goal in last Saturday's 2-1 win. At the 65:36 mark, Byrne took a corner from the left side and, after the rebound was punched back out to him just outside the box, fired a bending shot back towards the net. The ball hit the crossbar and bounced straight down past the line to tie the score at 1-1. The goal was the third for Byrne in NCAA Tournament play and 11th of his career overall. In addition to his three goals this season, the All-Big West First Team selection has been setting the table for his teammates all season and led the Big West with seven assists.

Forward Thinking
With two of UCSB's top four goal scorers this season being either a freshman or sophomore, Coach Vom Steeg can rest easy knowing the Gauchos will be very solid up front the next few years. Freshman Bongomin Otii leads the team and ranks fifth in the Big West Conference with six goals this season after becoming the first player in program history to score five goals in his first five games wearing the Gaucho blue and gold. Sophomore Nick Perera has also had a breakout season, finding the net four times in 2006. Along with Avila, the forward leads the squad with two game-winning goals, the most recent coming when he tallied a pair in UCSB's 2-0 victory over then-ranked No. 15 UC Irvine to move into first place in the conference standings October 7. Perera scored one of the Gauchos' four goals in the November 4th win over UC Riverside, collecting a cross from Chris Pontius and netting an arcing shot in the 38th minute. Otii, a native of Denver, Colo. has not scored since October 14, when the Gauchos played at Cal Poly. Both Otii and Perera were in the starting lineup against San Diego State and combined for four of the Gauchos' 20 shots. Perera was credited with an assist on Iro's game-winning goal after finding Rosenlund in the box.

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