SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A pair of UC Santa Barbara men's soccer players will represent the New Zealand Under-23 men's national team at the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) U-23 Championship taking place in Fiji from September 21 to October 5.
Versatile forward Noah Billingsley and defender Hunter Ashworth will look to help New Zealand qualify for its first Olympic appearance in men's soccer since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, in which former Gaucho defender Michael Boxall was a part of the squad, and only its second ever.
"It's a great honor to have our players represent their country. Noah, in particular, already received his first cap playing for the senior New Zealand team last summer. The international experience they get from playing in that competitive environment will help them when they come back in the fall," said Head Coach Tim vom Steeg.
In his junior season, Billingsley found a home on the defensive end of the pitch after being utilized primarily at forward and midfield in his first two seasons at UCSB. The Kiwi came on strong especially in conference play, scoring a golden goal game-winner in overtime against Cal State Fullerton. He also tallied an assist in a 3-0 win over CSUN and helped the Gauchos to four shutouts in seven conference matches. At the end of the season, Billingsley earned All-Far West Region honors in addition to being named to the All-Big West First Team.
Ashworth made an immediate impact in his first season with UCSB en route to earning a selection to the All-Big West First Team. The Laguna Beach, Calif. native and University of San Francisco transfer scored two goals in league play, helping the Gauchos come from behind on the road to salvage a draw with UC Irvine and rout CSUN 3-0 at home. His athleticism and defensive ability was on full display while helping the Gauchos to six shutouts this season, including four in conference play, while holding opponents to a league-best 0.75 goals against average.
UCSB opens the 2019 season with an exhibition against Westmont at Harder Stadium on Saturday, August 17 at 7:30 p.m. Season tickets, including a free parking pass, are on sale now and can be purchased here.