No. 9 UCSB Returns to Harder, Hosts USD and St. Mary's

Riley Peterson (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Riley Peterson (photo by Eric Isaacs)

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• The Schedule
Friday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. PDT
No. 9 UC Santa Barbara vs. San Diego (1-0-1)
Harder Stadium
All-time record vs the Toreros: 12-6-0
Last meeting: UCSB 4-0 USD (9/27/15 @ UCSB)
UCSB Form: W W
USD Form: T W

Sunday, Sept. 4 at 7:05 p.m. PDT
No. 9 UC Santa Barbara vs. St. Mary's (0-0-2)
Harder Stadium
All-time record vs the Gaels: 6-4-0
Last meeting: UCSB 6-0 SMC (9/6/02 @ UCSB)
UCSB Form: W W
SMC Form: T T

• The Week in Review
UCSB opened the 2016 season with a pair of contests in Ohio State's Wolstein Classic tournament, downing Oakland 2-1 in the opener before taking down the Buckeyes 1-0 in the final game for a perfect 2-0 start. A trio of Gauchos were named to the All-Tournament Team: Josue Espana, Sam Strong, and Kevin Feucht. In the opener, freshman MF Daniel Amo scored five minutes into his NCAA debut to put the Gauchos ahead, and then Espana notched the game-winner in the 76th minute after Oakland equalized shortly after halftime. Feucht finished off a Jonah Adomakoh cross three minutes into overtime to save a result for UCSB against Ohio State on Sunday in a game whose start was delayed two hours and 15 minutes by lightning strikes.

• Harder Fortress
Returning to Santa Barbara this weekend should be a good thing for the Gauchos, who have been dominant at Harder Stadium in recent seasons. Since the start of the 2009 campaign, UCSB is 56-18-7 on its home turf for a .735 winning percentage, a tick below the program's .746 mark (130-38-19) in the Tim Vom Steeg era (since 1999). The Gauchos are 12-2 all-time at home in the NCAA Tournament.

• History with the Toreros and Gaels
The Gauchos will be looking to keep up a string of historic success against San Diego, as they have defeated the Toreros in four straight contests. USD hasn't won a game against UCSB since 1996 and hasn't earned a victory at Harder Stadium since 1989. UCSB is 6-4 against St. Mary's, but the two teams haven't faced off since 2002, a 6-0 UCSB win at Harder. The Gauchos are 2-1 against St. Mary's in the Vom Steeg era.

• Welcome to Santa Barbara
Since Vom Steeg's hiring in 1999, UCSB has done fairly well in home openers (10-4-3), however the Gauchos are just 2-2-2 in the past six seasons. Paired with last year's 1-0 victory over Stanford to open the campaign, UCSB is looking to win home openers in consecutive years for the first time since 2008-09.

• Nice Start
With convincing victories in both of their games in the Wolstein Classic, the Gauchos secured an undefeated record through two games for the sixth time in the past eight years. UCSB is shooting for its first 4-0 start out of the gate since 2011 and the fifth in the Vom Steeg era (2002, '04, '09, '11).

• Rankings Update
After debuting at No. 13 in the NSCAA Preseason Poll, UCSB jumped as high as No. 9 in this week's national rankings (Soccer America) while also checking in at No. 10 (NSCAA) and No. 14 (College Soccer News, Top Drawer Soccer). The Gauchos are the No. 2 team in the NSCAA's Far West rankings behind UCLA.

• Big West Respect
UCSB was selected unanimously to repeat as Big West North Division Champions and three Gauchos were named to the 11-man Preseason All-Conference Team when the league unveiled the results of the 2016 Preseason Coaches Poll. The Gauchos received all eight first place votes and totaled 32 points, more than any other Big West squad. Cal State Fullerton was tabbed to win the South Division. DePuy, Kevin Feucht, and forward Ahinga Selemani placed on the Preseason All-Big West Team.

• DePuy's Preseason Publicity
It was a busy offseason for Nick DePuy, who garnered a number of preseason awards. The senior striker was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, received a College Soccer News Preseason All-America honor, was listed as the top "senior poised for a big year," and was named the 2015-16 UCSB Male Athlete of the Year on top of his selection to the Preseason All-Big West Team.

• Filling the House
UCSB drew a total of 46,132 fans (3,844 per game) to Harder Stadium last season to lead the NCAA in attendance for the ninth consecutive season.

• Opening Act
With a 2-1 victory over Oakland last Friday, UCSB won its sixth straight season-opening game, outscoring its opponents 13-3 in those contests. The Gauchos have just one loss on opening day in the past 10 years.

• Dominant DePuy
One of the most potent offensive forces in the entire country, senior forward Nick DePuy had one of the most prolific seasons for a striker in UCSB program history last year. The Irvine native ended the regular season with more goals (15) and game-winning goals (eight) than any other player in the country. DePuy found the back of the net in 12 of the team's last 23 games a year ago, including a five-game stretch from Sept. 27 to Oct. 10 where he scored six goals with four of those holding up as the game-winner.

• Repeat Offender
Leading the league in goals (15) and points (31) by a wide margin, DePuy was selected as the Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 for the second consecutive season, the first Gaucho to repeat as winner of the award since Rob Friend in 2001 and 2002. Also in 2015, he became the first student-athlete ever to win three consecutive Big West Offensive Player of the Week awards, thanks to a stretch where he turned in six goals and four game-winners over a five-game span.

• Nice Move, Coach
Since being converted to forward on Sept. 26, 2014 in a game against San Diego State, Nick DePuy has more goals than any other player in NCAA soccer. In that time, he has netted a whopping 24 times in 37 games. All-time, the Gauchos are an undefeated 16-0-4 in contests where DePuy finds the back of the net.

• Pair of Gauchos Named to Top Drawer's Top-100
Last week, both Nick DePuy (No. 26) and Kevin Feucht (67) were listed on Top Drawer's Preseason Top-100 men's player rankings. They were the only two players in the Big West to be ranked.

• Lungs of Steel
If the opening weekend was any indication, DePuy and Feucht should expect to see few breaks in action this season. The duo was among five UCSB players (center back Sam Strong, left back Randy Mendoza, and goalie Titouan Le Roux the others) who were on the field for all 183 of the team's minutes in the Wolstein Classic.  

• Steady Flow
UCSB has been peppering its opponents consistently with shots to open the season, recording 16-17 shots in each contest and 7-10 shots per half (Westmont exhibition included). UCSB has the top four shot generators in the Big West in Ahinga Selemani, Nick DePuy (eight shots apiece), Kevin Feucht, and Josue Espana (six apiece).

• Parking Advisory
UCSB soccer patrons should be advised that due to construction, parking for all games at Harder Stadium this season will be affected. With the temporary closure of Lot 38 adjacent to Harder Stadium, fans will be directed to park their vehicles at Lot 22 (structure adjacent to Thunderdome), Lot 25 (Student Health), and Lot 27 (main Thunderdome lot). Signage with directions to appropriate lots will be posted throughout campus on gamedays.  

• 2015 in Brief
A near-unanimous preseason pick to win the Big West North, UCSB validated 2015 prognosticators by winning its third consecutive division crown en route to a 14-7-2 record. The Gauchos were dominant at home, recording an 9-2-1 mark at Harder Stadium this season. In conference play, the Gauchos went an impressive 7-2-1, including a 4-0 mark against Big West south opponents. UCSB posted two five-game unbeaten streaks over the year, with all but one of those contests coming in Big West action. Key non-conference wins included a season-opening victory over then-No. 5 Stanford, the first ever away win for UCSB at UCLA, a 4-0 drubbing of USD, and a 3-1 decision over College of Charleston. Earning a first round bye in the NCAA tournament, the Gauchos topped South Carolina 1-0 before falling 3-2 to No. 2 Clemson in a dramatic back-and-forth Sweet 16 matchup.