Title Hopes Still Alive as No. 18 UCSB Closes Out Regular Season at Cal Poly

Ameyawu Muntari (Photos by Tony Mastres)
Ameyawu Muntari (Photos by Tony Mastres)
The Schedule
Saturday, Nov. 2 at 5 p.m
No. 18 UC Santa Barbara at Cal Poly (7-7-1, 3-3-0 BWC)
All-time record vs. the Mustangs (W-L-T): 48-20-10
Last meeting: Oct. 5, 2019: at UCSB 3, Cal Poly 1
• Video Stream Available
Saturday's match will be streamed on BigWest.TV, produced by Cal Poly.
• Audio Stream Available
Additionally, an audio-only broadcast of this weekend's game will be available on UCSBGauchos.com. Sports Information Director Arthur Wilkie will handle the play-by-play.
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Follow the @UCSBMensSoccer account on Twitter for highlights and more from this weekend's game.
• The Gaucho Rewind, Matchdays 16 and 17
A double draw week awaited the Gauchos on the road at Davis and CSUN. The Gauchos and Aggies played out a 1-1 tie on Wednesday, with UC Davis taking the lead on an own goal only for UCSB attacking midfielder Finn Ballard McBride to reply nearly immediately afterward.
At CSUN, no goals were scored between either team, but both squads had several chances in the matchup. Will Baynham and Noah Billingsley each had clear-cut opportunities that they couldn't put away, while Wolfgang Prentice forced a reaction save out of Ben Roach on the other end of the field.
• Home Stretch (On the Road)
Saturday's match at Cal Poly marks the final game in a three-game road trip to close out the Gauchos' regular season. They faced UC Davis and CSUN last week and now travel to Cal Poly for the second chapter of the Blue-Green Rivalry. Of course, it's not a bad time of the season to get re-acquainted with the road- if the Gauchos finish as anything other than the first seed in the conference, they could potentially play up to two games on the road. However, UCSB has yet to lose on the road in seven games this season, sporting a 4-0-3 record.
• Scouting the Opposition: Cal Poly
3 wins out of six conference games have the Mustangs riding high into the league tournament, and they'll have the chance to lock in a home game in the first round depending on what happens on Saturday night. A win would mean Cal Poly would lock in the third seed, while a draw or loss would see the Mustangs finish in fourth or fifth place, depending on the result of the Sacramento State game. Cal Poly is led by Emmanuel Perez with 9 goals, as the striker shares the conference lead in goals with UCSB's Finn Ballard McBride. The Gauchos defeated Cal Poly 3-1 on Oct. 5, keeping the ball 59% of the time while Carter Clemmensen, Ballard McBride, and an own goal got past goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado, with Angel De Leon getting the Mustangs a goal back at the end of the game.
• Big West Tournament Picture
Heading into the conference's final gameweek, UC Irvine and UC Davis sit atop the standings with 13 points apiece, though the Anteaters hold the tiebreaker after having defeated UC Davis earlier in the season. The Gauchos are third with 11 points, and Cal Poly is fourth with 9. Sacramento State are fifth with 7 points, Cal State Fullerton are sixth with 6, CSUN sit below the Tournament line in seventh with 5 points, and UC Riverside need help to move off the bottom spot with 4 points. 
The Gauchos are still in contention for the top seed heading into the Tournament with a win at Cal Poly, a UC Davis draw or loss, and a UC Irvine loss. UCSB would finish second with a win, a Davis draw or loss, and an Irvine draw or win. The Gauchos would finish third if UC Davis and UC Irvine both win, and the Gauchos draw or lose at Cal Poly. UCSB would finish with the fourth seed with a loss at Cal Poly.
With a win, a UC Davis draw or loss, a UC Irvine draw, or either of those results for Davis and Irvine separately, they can get a share of the Big West regular season title.
• Olympic Kiwis
Senior right wingback Noah Billingsley and junior centerback Hunter Ashworth were successful in representing New Zealand U-23 at the Oceania Football Confederation U-23 Championship in Fiji, winning the tournament after defeating Solomon Islands 5-0 in the final. The Kiwi duo helped their home country qualify for its first Olympics since 2012 at the tournament. In the "Oly-Whites'" final match of the group stage, Billingsley started and scored in New Zealand's comeback 4-2 win against the Solomon Islands.
• Back in the Ranking
Following the Gauchos' 3-3 draw with No. 1 Stanford, UCSB started to get attention in the national polls. On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, Santa Barbara were ranked or receiving votes in all four polls for the first time since 2016, ranked as high as No. 18 in the Top Drawer Soccer poll. Now in the rankings for their fifth-straight week, the Gauchos remain fully ranked in all four polls. College Soccer News has them at No. 18, the United Soccer Coaches coaches' poll ranks them 19th, Soccer America says the Gauchos are 21st-best in the country, and Top Drawer Soccer has them at No. 24.
• Top Drawer Players
On Oct. 21, Rodney Michael was selected to the Top Drawer Soccer Midseason Top 100 and Finn Ballard McBride made it on the publication's Freshman Midseason Top 100 list. Michael clocks in at no. 9 on the list, improving on his No. 67 ranking on the preseason chart. After being held scoreless in the first six games of the year, the Freetown, Sierra Leone-native turned his season around with a goal or assist in eight consecutive matches, racking up four goals and six assists in that span. Ballard McBride is on the freshman top 100 list as the no. 6-ranked first-year player in the country. Despite not playing a single minute in any of UCSB's first three matches of the season, the Australian's performances have vaulted him to the top of the Gaucho goalscoring ranks, as he leads the squad with eight goals. He scored in six of the Gauchos' seven matches between the away game at Pacific on Sept. 25 and UCSB's home win against UC Riverside on Oct. 16.
• Roach at the Ready
Ben Roach's 1,629 minutes played so far this season rank as tops in the NCAA this season. The sophomore has started every game for the Gauchos this season following a highly successful freshman campaign. His performance over the last week earned him his second Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week award of the season and of his career.
• One-bault, Two-bault, Three-bault
In the match against UMBC on Sept. 22, Thibault Candia scored the Gauchos' first hat trick since Luis Silva did the same on September 23, 2011 against San Diego. The first goal came early in the first half when Will Baynham played the ball forward for Candia in midfield, where he dribbled the ball into the left side of the 18-yard box, where his attempted cross into the middle took an immediate deflection off the foot of an opposing player and into the net. In the second half, he put away a penalty into the top left corner and brilliantly dribbled the ball from just past midfield to a few yards behind the top of the box, where he got a shot off with his right foot. For his efforts, he was awarded the Big West Co-Offensive Player of the Week award.
• One-Billingsley, Two-Billingsley, Three-Billingsley
Noah Billingsley became the first player in the Big West this season to record three assists in a game after assisting the second, third, and fourth goals in UCSB's 5-0 win at No. 22 Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 12. It was Santa Barbara's first triple-assist performance since Memo Arzate completed the feat in 2003 in his 18-assist campaign.
• Topping the Attendance Charts
Oct. 5's match between UCSB and Cal Poly was the highest attended match in NCAA soccer so far this season, with the final figure of 9,748 fans toppling the previous high of 5,942 (Notre Dame at Saint Louis, Aug. 31) by nearly 4,000. The Blue-Green rivalry regularly attracts the biggest crowds in college soccer, making up for 19 of the top 30 all-time highest-attended matchups.
• Fun for the Whole Family
The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer program is debuting a revamped kids zone this season, featuring activities such as futsal, soccer golf, soccer tennis, and obstacle courses, at Harder Stadium prior to every men's soccer home match. The kids zone will be open to season ticket holders, from 6:30 p.m. up to 15 minutes before kickoff, and also at halftime. 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.
• Conference is Here
In conference play, the Gauchos' home matches against Sacramento State, UC Riverside, and UC Irvine offer 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).
• 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.