Gauchos begin 2019 season against UNLV and No. 16 Virginia Tech

The Gauchos are set to begin their 2019 season at home against UNLV on Friday night. (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
The Gauchos are set to begin their 2019 season at home against UNLV on Friday night. (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
 
The Schedule
Friday, Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m. (approx.)
UC Santa Barbara vs. UNLV
All-time record vs. the Rebels (W-L-T): 11-16-4
Last meeting: Sept. 26, 2004, UCSB def. UNLV 4-0
 
Sunday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. #16 Virginia Tech
All-time record vs. the Hokies (W-L-T): 0-0-0
Last meeting: First meeting
 
Video Stream Available
UCSBGauchos.com will offer a live video broadcast of both games this weekend through Big West TV. The "Voice of the Gauchos" Gerry Fall will be on play-by-play duties, while current Gaucho athlete Carson vom Steeg will be providing color commentary throughout the broadcasts. An additional audio-only stream will be available via KCSB-FM 91.9, UCSB's student radio station. A link to both broadcasts can be found on the UCSB men's soccer schedule page.
 
Raise the Curtain
After a successful pair of preseason games, the Gauchos are ready to kick off the 2019 regular season with a pair of matches against quality opposition in UNLV and #16 Virginia Tech. Both preseason games, against crosstown rivals Westmont and Division I opponents Loyola Marymount, were won by one-goal margins. Both goals were from set pieces, with senior centerback Faouzi Taieb getting on the end of fellow countryman and senior attacking midfielder Thibault Candia's cross to claim victory in the Westmont game, and senior right wingback Noah Billingsley expertly side-footing a free kick from 20 yards out to do the same at LMU.
 
Roll the Dice
UNLV isn't a regular on UCSB's schedule by any means, but the Rebels have historically caused the Gauchos trouble. However, UCSB has won two of its last three home meetings against the Rebels, in 1999 and 2004. Consider that 2004 showdown was the most recent meeting between the two and you'll come to the conclusion that it's time to make new history with the desert dwellers.
 
Nice to Meet You
Sunday night's match between UCSB and Virginia Tech will be the first-ever meeting between the two and it will be the Gauchos' first match against an ACC school since their last trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, in which UCSB lost to Clemson in the second round. The Hokies are a formidable foe, having made a program-record-tying three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, and having strung together three consecutive 10-plus win seasons for the eighth time in school history. Virginia Tech also comes into Sunday night's matchup ranked as the 16th-best team in the nation by United Soccer Coaches and 19th in the Top Drawer Soccer poll.
 
Double the Action
This match is the second of two games that fans at Harder Stadium will be treated to on Friday night. The women's soccer team plays in a regular season match against Westmont at 5 p.m, whereas the men's game will begin at either 7:30 p.m. or approximately 30 minutes after the end of the women's game, whichever is later.
 
Fun for the Whole Family
The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer program is set to debut a revamped kids zone, featuring activities such as futsal, soccer golf, soccer tennis, and obstacle courses, at Harder Stadium prior to Friday night's match against UNLV. The kids zone will be open and available to all fans, with priority to season ticket holders, from 6:30 p.m. up to 15 minutes before kickoff, and also at halftime. Beginning on Sunday's match against Virginia Tech, it will be only be open to season ticket holders. Fans are encouraged to arrive early as there is limited space for each game and the kids zone will fill up quickly. The play area will be open to children from the ages of 6 to 12. Event staff will be present to supervise the area, but parents/guardians will be required to sign a liability waiver on the first visit. The area will be located at the north end of Harder Stadium near the Gold Zone and Gaucho Fund hospitality area.
 
Season Tickets on Sale Now
UCSB season tickets, including a parking pass for the 2019 season, are now on sale. Plans start at $50, with combo (men's and women's games) and family plans also available. Certain plans also include priority seating for the Stanford and Cal Poly games. Season tickets can be purchased online or by calling the UCSB Athletics Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB.
 
Marquee Matchups
UCSB's 2019 schedule is loaded with quality opponents, including six teams that qualified for the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Pac-12 opponents Cal and Stanford highlight the home schedule, visiting Harder Stadium on either end of September. From the ACC, a traditional powerhouse conference in college soccer, Virginia Tech makes the cross-country trip to play UCSB on Sept. 1. A trip up to the Pacific Northwest to face Gonzaga and Oregon State, as well as the Blue-Green rivalry match against Cal Poly, are some of the other highlights of the non-conference schedule. In conference play, the Gauchos' home matches against Sacramento State, UC Riverside, and UC Irvine offers a chance for revenge against a trio of opponents that UCSB only managed to pick up a single point from (2-2 OT draw at UC Irvine) last season. The final three games of the season see the Gauchos hit the road, culminating in the all-important second chapter of the Blue-Green Rivalry at the Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo.
 
Harder Heaven
Last season, UCSB finished 9-0-1 at home, good for its best home record since the 2002 Gauchos went 10-0-0. That came a year after the Gauchos went unbeaten in eight of their 10 home matches during the regular season (4-2-4). In the Vom Steeg era (since 1999), the Gauchos boast a hearty .731 winning percentage (147-46-26).
 
Is it September Yet?
If the Gauchos' results in season openers in the Vom Steeg era are any indication, the Gauchos are itching to start the season. UCSB has gone 15-2-3 in the curtain-raiser in that time. In the past 10 years, they have lost just one opener, an overtime loss to Cal State Bakersfield in 2010. UCSB is unbeaten in its past eight openers, winning six in a row (at Northwestern, at LMU, vs. Seattle. at College of Charleston, at Stanford, vs. Oakland at Ohio State) before settling for a scoreless draw against St. Mary's in 2017. The team went back to its winning ways against St. John's last year, winning 2-1 at Harder Stadium. UCSB has outscored its opponents 16-5 in those games.
 
Vom Steeg Eyeing No. 275
As he enters his 21st season at the helm of the Gauchos, head coach Tim Vom Steeg is seventeen wins away from reaching No. 275 for his career. With a 258-119-48 (.664) career record, Vom Steeg is far and away the all-time program leader in wins, totaling over half of UCSB's all-time 511victories.
 
2018 in Review
The Gauchos were stellar at home, but struggled on the road throughout the 2018 season. An emphatic 7-0 win over Westmont saw the Gauchos reclaim the Bryant and Sons Cup from their loss to the Warriors the year prior. The season began with home wins over St. John's and UC Riverside, in which the Gauchos only gave up one goal. The first road trip of the season saw UCSB get shut out at Portland and Seattle. After winning at home against Butler, the Gauchos picked up their lone non-conference win at New Mexico, 2-1, thanks to a pair of Thibault Candia assists. More trouble on the road would come at St. Mary's, losing a heartbreaker 1-0 in double overtime in the final minute of play. Wins over UCLA and Gonzaga at home ushered in the Big West schedule, but not before a 1-0 loss at rivals Cal Poly. The Gauchos would open Big West play with two losses in three games, an overtime win against Cal State Fullerton being the only exception. A 2-2 draw at league leaders UC Irvine pushed the Gauchos to three home wins in a row, but Fullerton got its revenge by defeating the Gauchos at Harder Stadium on penalty kicks in the first round of the Big West Tournament to bring an end to UCSB's season.
 
Cream of the Crop
UCSB were picked to finish first in the Big West Preseason Coaches' Poll, receiving 53 points, tallied from the coaches' votes in which teams were ranked from 1-8 and assigned a corresponding point value, two points ahead of second-placed UC Irvine and eight ahead of CSUN. UCSB also received three first-place votes, whereas Irvine received two, and Cal State Fullerton, UC Riverside, and Cal Poly had one apiece.
 
High Praise
The Gauchos also landed three players on the Big West Preseason All-Conference list. Senior wingback Noah Billingsley earned the distinction for the third time in his Gaucho career, while junior winger Rodney Michael made the list for the second consecutive year. Junior centerback Hunter Ashworth was selected to the preseason list for the first time since transferring from University of San Francisco after the 2017 season.
 
Mic'd Up
Head Coach Tim vom Steeg and team captains Hunter Ashworth and Noah Billingsley were recently featured on the Up, Up, and Ole podcast, the official podcast of Gaucho Athletics. The episodes are available to stream and/or download from UCSBGauchos.com, as well as Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. The men's soccer program also has a new home on Facebook and can be found by searching "UCSB Men's Soccer," joining its existing Twitter and Instagram accounts as the online destinations for news, updates, and features on the team. 
 
Need a Lyft?
Lyft, the fastest growing rideshare company in the U.S., announced today that it will become the first rideshare company to sponsor the UCSB athletic seasons from Fall 2018 through Fall 2021.The three-year partnership begins during this weekend's men's soccer game versus Westmont on Saturday, Aug. 18 at Harder Stadium and will feature an exclusive Lyft pick-up and drop-off area at the Stadium Road entrance. Giveaways, discounted rides and fun Gaucho-themed activities are some of the additional perks that Lyft passengers will experience during each athletic season.
 
Follow UCSB men's soccer all season long on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.