No. 15 Gauchos, No. 16 Aggies Face Off For Big West Tournament Title Friday

(Photo by Eric Isaacs)
(Photo by Eric Isaacs)
 
The Schedule
Big West Tournament Final
Friday, Nov. 15 at 2 p.m
[2] No. 15 UC Santa Barbara at [1] UC Davis
 
UC Davis (12-4-2, 5-1-1 Big West, 6-0-1 home)
All-time record vs. the Aggies (W-L-T): 23-10-6
Record vs. the Aggies in the Big West Tournament: 2-0-0
Aggies' record in Big West Tournament Finals: 0-1-2
Last meeting: Oct. 26, 2019: at CSUN 0, UCSB 0 (2OT)
 
 
• Video Stream Available
UC Davis will offer a live video broadcast of the Big West Tournament final on Friday through BigWest.TV. 
 
• Audio Stream Available
Additionally, an audio-only broadcast of the final will be available on UCSBGauchos.com. Sports Information Director Arthur Wilkie will handle the play-by-play on the broadcast, while current Gaucho student-athlete Carson Vom Steeg will provide color commentary.
 
• Tweet Tweet!
Follow the @UCSBMensSoccer account on Twitter for highlights and more from Friday's match.
 
• The Final Countdown
Following UCSB and UC Davis' 2-0 wins over CSUN and Cal State Fullerton, respectively, the two teams are set to meet in the Big West Tournament Final at Aggie Soccer Field. UC Davis reaches the Final for the third year in a row and the fourth time in program history. The Aggies have never won a Final, losing once in regulation in 2012 (CSUN) and getting eliminated on penalty kicks in both 2017 (CS Fullerton) and 2018 (UC Riverside). This is the second time that UC Davis hosts the Big West Tournament Final (2012).
 
• Tournament Stats and Fast Facts
This is the sixth time that the top two-seeded teams meet in the Big West Tournament final in the 12 years the tournament has existed.
 
The Gauchos are 1-4-0 in final matches in the Big West Tournament since the competition's inception in 2008.
 
UCSB is winless in both of its Big West Tournament Final matches away from home (2008, 2011 vs UC Irvine).
 
Friday's match will be just the third time that the Gauchos have had to play a match away from home in their Big West Tournament history.
 
This is the Gauchos' first trip to the Big West Tournament Final since 2015.
 
Only one UCSB student-athlete has earned Big West Tournament MVP honors: Luis Silva in 2010.
 
• The Gaucho Rewind, Matchday 19: Big West Tournament Semifinal
Santa Barbara advanced to the Big West Tournament Final after defeating CSUN 2-0 at Harder Stadium on Saturday night. Goals from Will Baynham and Rodney Michael secured the Gauchos their first trip to the Big West Tournament final since 2015. Ben Roach's four saves secured UCSB's 10th clean sheet, the most in a single season since 2010. The Gauchos have lost just once (UC Irvine, Oct. 19) in their last sixteen games. 
 
• Road Warriors
In eight games away from Harder Stadium this season, the Gauchos have yet to lose. UCSB has accumulated five wins and three draws throughout the year, in stark contrast to its 1-6-1 record on the road last season.The team has outscored opponents 16-5 in this run, which includes the final three games of Big West play (at UC Davis, at CSUN, at Cal Poly).
 
• Scouting the Opposition: UC Davis
The Aggies have lost just one of their last 11 games, winning the Big West regular season with a stellar 5-1-1 record for their third league title since joining in 2007. Their signature win this season was a shock 4-2 victory over then-No. 6 St. Mary's which was the Moraga, Calif. outfit's first regular season loss since 2017. Forward Adam Mickelson has three goals and one assist in the last five games for the Aggies, and goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley has led the defense to eight shutouts.
 
• All-Conference Nods
Senior wingback Noah Billingsley earned the Big West Conference's Defensive Player of the Year designation, senior attacking midfielder Thibault Candia earned Co-Midfielder of the Year honors, while Finn Ballard McBride received the Freshman Player of the Year award in the league's end-of-year awards announced Nov. 12. The full list of Gaucho honorees is as follows:
 
First Team - Rodney Michael (third selection), Noah Billingsley (second selection), Hunter Ashworth (second selection), Sahid Conteh, Thibault Candia
Honorable Mention - Will Baynham
All-Freshman Team - Finn Ballard McBride
 
The Gauchos' eight selections across the four teams are the most since 2016 (nine).
 
• RPI Picture
The Gauchos have seen their RPI steadily improve throughout the season. UCSB's RPI sat at 21 after its win over CSUN at home on Saturday, which was already up from 24 at the beginning of the week, but thanks to wins from previous opponents Stanford, Oregon State, and Pacific, that number jumped to 16. An RPI that low puts Santa Barbara in prime contention for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid should the Gauchos not be able to get the win at UC Davis on Friday. An RPI ranking of that caliber could also be a factor in the selection committe's designation of a national seed and first-round bye in the Tournament.
 
• 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 Rankings
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 seventh-straight week, the Gauchos remain fully ranked in all four polls. The Gauchos are in the top 15 in the Soccer America ranking with the no. 15 ranking, while both United Soccer Coaches and Soccer America have the team in the 16-spot.. Top Drawer Soccer considers UCSB the 18th-best team in the country.
 
• 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
The plaudits continue to pour in for Ben Roach as his stellar performances in net have continued for the Gauchos. He earned recognition as an All-Big West second teamer thanks to a year that included a season and career-high 10 saves at Cal Poly on Nov. 2, a nine-save performance at UC Davis, and 10 shutouts so far this season, the most for the Gauchos since 2010. Roach's 0.89 goals-against average sits just outside the top 10 single-season all-time marks in program history. The sophomore has started every game for the Gauchos this season following a highly successful freshman campaign. 
 
• 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.