No. 7 UCSB Hosts Washington In NCAA Tournament Second Round Wednesday
Nov. 26, 2007
Match No. 20
NCAA Tournament Second Round
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
No. 7 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (12-3-4) vs. Washington Huskies (9-7-4)
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
UC Santa Barbara's second round match with Washington will be aired live on KCSB 91.9 in Santa Barbara. Fans can also listen to the game online by logging on to www.kcsb.org. Chris Hoffman and Alex Pavlovic will have the call live from Harder Stadium as UCSB begins its quest for another NCAA National Championship.
UC Santa Barbara has made a habit of finishing seasons strong lately and 2007 has been no different. After winning 11 of their final 12 matches on the way to the program's first NCAA National Championship in 2006, the Gauchos enter the postseason this year winners of nine of their last 12 and have gone unbeaten in seven straight. In fact, UCSB had won six consecutive games and outscored the opposition 16-6 over that span before last Saturday's regular season finale with UC Riverside ended in a 1-1 draw. The Gauchos' have not lost since dropping a 2-1 decision at Central Coast rival Cal Poly on Oct. 17 and bring an overall record of 12-3-4 into Wednesday's showdown with Washington.
Five Out of Seven Aint Bad
Speaking of habits, UCSB has been the team to beat in the Big West the last several years and the Gauchos continued their recent domination with another conference championship in 2007. With the 3-2 win at Cal State Northridge on Nov. 13, Santa Barbara won its second consecutive league title and fifth since the conference reinstated men's soccer in 2001. The defending national champions lost just once in conference play this season and clinched a share of the league crown with a thrilling 2-1 comeback victory at Cal State Fullerton Nov. 10. UCSB then needed just one win or tie in its final two matches to claim the title outright and, after falling behind 2-0 against the Matadors, came roaring back to score the final three goals and sew up a fifth championship in a seven year span with a record 9-1-2 in conference play. Since 2001, Santa Barbara is a combined 54-12-6 against the Big West for a winning percentage of .792 against league foes.
A Seed For Success
After finishing the regular season with an overall record of 12-3-4 and an RPI of seven, UCSB was awarded a No. 12 seed when the 2007 NCAA Tournament field was unveiled Nov. 9. This marks just the second time in program history that the Gauchos will enter the postseason as a seeded team, with the first coming in 2004 when Santa Barbara was given the No. 9 seed after finishing with an overall record of 17-2-1 and spending seven weeks as the nation's top-ranked team. That group advanced to the College Cup for the first time in school history and lost a heartbreaker to Indiana in a penalty kick shoot-out in the title match. UCSB returned to the championship stage last season and became the first unseeded team to be crowned champion since Connecticut in 2001 with a 2-1 win over UCLA.
Trio Of Gauchos Take Home Big West Individual Honors
As you would expect, the Big West Conference champions were handsomely rewarded when the annual all-conference teams and awards were released last week. Andy Iro became the first player in league history to to win a major award three-times after he was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season, while Chris Pontius was named the Offensive Player of the Year and Ciaran O'Brien took home the award for Midfielder of the Year. In all, UCSB had a total of eight players named all-conference and set a school-record with seven players earning All-Big West First Team distinction. Eric Avila, Tino Nuñez, Alfonso Motagalvan, and Brennan Tennelle joined Iro, Pontius, and O'Brien on the first team, while Jon Curry was named to the honorable mention team. The Gauchos took home seven of the 13 first team spots and Santa Barbara's eight all-league selections were the most among the conference's seven teams.
2007 In Review
UCSB began the year with the program's first-ever No. 1 preseason ranking, but the defending national champions struggled in the season's first week, allowing two late goals in a 2-2 tie at Stanford before getting upset 1-0 by Gonzaga at home two days later. The Gauchos bounced back with a 2-0 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee in week two and an impressive 2-1 overtime victory over then-ranked No. 3 SMU in week three, but lost to 28th-ranked New Mexico in the Nike/Crescent Financial Solutions Invitational title game two days later to fall to 2-2-1. In its next game, Santa Barbara erupted for a season-high five goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Columbia and then battled No. 6 Harvard to a 1-1 draw to wrap up its non-conference slate. Things really begin to click in Big West play as the Gauchos became the first team since the conference reinstated men's soccer to shutout its first three league opponents of the season, defeating UC Davis 4-0 on the road, routing UC Irvine by the same count in the Fox Soccer Channel's Game of the Week, and recording a 1-0 win over Cal State Fullerton. After tying the Aggies 2-2- in the second meeting and losing for the first time in BWC play at Cal Poly, UCSB went on to win six straight, including a 3-1 come-from-behind win over the Mustangs in front of a record crowd of 8,102 at Harder Stadium in the rematch between the conference's top two teams. UCSB won at Cal State Northridge for the first time since 2001 to clinch the 2007 Big West Championship on Nov. 13. The Gauchos won nine of their 12 league games this season and enter Wednesday's contest carrying a seven match unbeaten streak.
And Washington It is
After receiving a first round bye in the NCAA Tournament, the Gauchos will host the University of Washington in the second round Wednesday night at Harder Stadium. The Huskies defeated Portland 1-0 in the first round Friday night on a penalty kick by senior forward Ely Allen in the 86th minute. Wednesday's contest will mark the sixth meeting between the two programs with UW holding a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series. The two teams last met on Oct. 9, 1998 and Washington cruised to a 9-1 home victory after eight different Huskies found the net in forgettable match for the Gauchos. Santa Barbara's lone win in the series was a 3-1 victory in Seattle in 1995.
UW enters Wednesday's contest riding a four-match unbeaten streak following Friday's win and has not lost since dropping a 1-0 home decision to Cal on Nov. 9. The Huskies wrapped up the regular season with an overall record of 8-7-4 and finished fifth in the Pac-10 Conference standings at 3-4-3. Allen headlines the Washington offense, leading the team with 12 goals to go with two assists for 26 points, while freshman forward Ellis McLoughlin is another player to keep an eye on with three goals and three assists in 2007. Rookie keeper Stephen Fung has started 17 games between the pipes and owns a 1.16 GAA with 55 saves and five shutouts. Hermann Trophy candidate Kevin Forrest suffered a season-ending stress fracture in his left foot after tallying three goals and six assists in 11 games this season.
That Special Time Of Year
2007 marks the Gauchos' sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and UCSB is a combined 13-4-0 in NCAA Tournament play dating back to 2002, the first season it qualified for the Big Dance. And whether it be the first or second round, Santa Barbara has been perfect in tournament openers, winning its opening game each of the previous five seasons. 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 in 2004. UCSB knocked off San Diego State each of the last two seasons, defeating the Aztecs 2-0 in 2005 and then erasing a 1-0 second half deficit to defeat SDSU 2-1 and start its national championship run last season. The Gauchos were a flawless 6-0 in the tournament last season, defeating San Diego State, SMU, Old Dominion, Northwestern, Wake Forest, and UCLA to bring home the title.
Home Field Advantage
While this year marks UCSB's sixth-straight postseason appearance, this is also the sixth year in a row the Gauchos will play a tournament game at Harder Stadium. Not only has Santa Barbara been perfect in NCAA openers the previous five seasons, but the Gauchos have also been unbeatable at home in tournament play. Hosting a game each year that they have qualified for the postseason, the Gauchos hold a 7-0-0 home record and look to continue the streak Wednesday when Huskies come to town. Harder Stadium has become one of the more difficult places for opponents to play and the UCSB faithful continue to show their support for the Gauchos in astounding. In its first-ever tournament game in 2002, Santa Barbara defeated San Diego 2-0 in front of over 4000 strong. In 2004, a school-record 11,215 fans watched UCSB crush Virginia Commonwealth 4-1 in the quarterfinals as the Gauchos advanced to the College Cup for the first time. Last season 2,356 turned out for the first round match-up with San Diego State and 8,784 were on hand two days after Thanksgiving for Santa Barbara's 3-2 win over Northwestern in the Elite Eight.
After going unbeaten in its last seven regular season matches, UCSB enters postseason play with a national ranking of No. 13 in the final NSCAA/adidas coaches' poll of the regular season. The Gauchos also hold the No. 11 spot in the last SoccerTimes coaches' poll before the NCAA Tournament got underway. In the media polls, Santa Barbara is ranked No. 7 in the current Soccer America Top 25 and received a No. 11 nod in the latest College Soccer News Top 30. The Gauchos began the 2007 campaign as the nation's top-ranked team and have remained ranked among the Top-25 all season long.
UCSB enters Wednesday's showdown with Washington having come-from-behind in each of its last four victories. Santa Barbara bounced back to defeat UC Irvine, Cal Poly, and Cal State Fullerton after spotting all three one goal leads and then erased a 2-0 deficit and won at Cal State Northridge. 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. After several close defeats, 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 in the quarterfinals and advance to the program's second College Cup in a three-year span. UCSB trailed seven times during the regular season in 2006 and went on to lose all seven contests.
Lets Make It Two
People that have been following UCSB soccer all season know the Gauchos are pretty tough to beat when they score two or more goals in a game. The Gauchos scored at least twice in 13 of their 19 regular season matches in 2007 and went undefeated in those contests, posting a record of 11-0-2. Flipping the coin, the defending champs have a record of just 1-3-2 when scoring less than two goals, including the 1-1 tie with UC Riverside in the regular season finale Nov. 17. Santa Barbara has averaged nearly three goals per match in the team's 12 wins and, not surprisingly, averaged under a goal in the three losses, finding the net a total of two times in three defeats. When the final Big West Conference statistics came out, UCSB ranked second in the Big West with 42 goals scored and a per game average of 2.21 in 19 matches. The Gauchos led the league with 325 shots, 122 points, and 38 assists.
Call To Duty
Chris Pontius had always been one of the most versatile players on the Gauchos' roster, but few people knew just how talented he was offensively before the 2007 season. Playing primarily in the midfield and filling in on the backline from time to time in his first two years at UCSB, head coach Tim Vom Steeg moved Pontius up front early in the season and the Yorba Linda, Calif. native immediately responded. Entering the year with a total of four goals in 43 career matches, Pontius scored the game-winner in Santa Barbara's first victory of the season went on to lead the Big West with 11 goals and 24 points this season. He put the nation on notice after scoring three times to lead the Gauchos to a 4-0 rout over UC Irvine in a nationally televised match Oct. 3 and earned National Team of the Week honors from both Soccer America and College Soccer News for his performance. Pontius also found the net twice in Santa Barbara's 3-2 comeback victory at Cal State Northridge Nov. 13 to propel UCSB to its fifth conference title in the last seven years. He was named the 2007 Big West Offensive Player of the Year following his breakout season.
There is no better example of success breeding success than Ciaran O'Brien. After watching the Gauchos defeat UCLA for the national championship last season, O'Brien transfered to UCSB from the University of San Diego and had an excellent first season in the blue and gold. The Federal Way, Wash. native was named the 2007 Big West Midfielder of the Year after tallying seven goals and a conference-best nine assists for 23 total points in 2007, which was second only behind teammate Chris Pontius. An All-Big West First Team selection, O'Brien has been a big reason why the Gauchos have gone unbeaten in their last seven matches, scoring five goals and dishing out five assists over that span. In fact, he has either scored or assisted on 10 of Santa Barbara's last 17 goals overall. O'Brien was named the Big West Player of the Week three times this season and also earned Soccer America and College Soccer News national team of the week honors on three occasions.
Iro, Avila Named To Hermann Trophy Watch List
Senior defender Andy Iro and junior midfielder Eric Avila were named to the 2007 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List prior to the start of the season, 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 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 and the winner will be announced during a nationally-televised news conference that evening.