Gauchos’ Road to Cary Begins Thursday Night Vs Cal

Faouzi Taieb (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Faouzi Taieb (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

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The Schedule
NCAA Tournament First Round
Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m
UC Santa Barbara vs California
California (8-6-3, 4-4-2 Pac-12, 4-2-1 away)
All-time record vs. the Golden Bears (W-L-T): 11-19-3
Record vs. the Golden Bears in the NCAA Tournament: 1-3-0
Golden Bears' record in NCAA Tournament: 12-16-2
Golden Bears' record in NCAA Tournament First Round: 4-1-0
Last meeting: Sept. 7, 2019: California 3, at UCSB 0
• Video Stream Available will offer a live video broadcast of the NCAA Tournament first round matchup on Thursday night through BigWest.TV. The "Voice of the Gauchos" Gerry Fall will be on play-by-play duties, while current Gaucho student-athlete Carson Vom Steeg will provide color commentary throughout the broadcast. An audio-only stream will be available via KCSB-FM 91.9, UCSB's student radio station.
• Tweet Tweet!
Follow the @UCSBMensSoccer account on Twitter for highlights and more from Thursday's match.
• We're Going Dancing!
For the first time since 2015, UCSB has qualified for the NCAA Tournament following a highly successful season. Despite numerous injuries and international call-ups to several key members of the squad, head coach Tim Vom Steeg managed to lead his team to an 11-3-4 regular season finish and a top 25 RPI. That was good for second in the Big West, which afforded the Gauchos a bye into the semifinal of the conference tournament, and a win over CSUN in that match vaulted UCSB into the Big West Tournament final. Despite a loss away to UC Davis in the title match, the Gauchos still found themselves in a comfortable position RPI-wise and landed in their 13th NCAA Tournament on Selection Monday.
• Gauchos in the NCAA Tournament: Stats and Fast Facts
This will be the Gauchos' sixth time hosting an NCAA Tournament First Round match. They have never lost in the Tournament's opening round.
The Gauchos are 1-3-0 against the Golden Bears in the NCAA Tournament. Their last win over the Pac-12 outfit came in 2003, which was also the last time UCSB defeated Cal in either regular season or postseason play.
UCSB's national championship in 2006 began with a first round victory against San Diego State in Santa Barbara.
The Gauchos are 18-10-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, sporting a 12-2-0 home record.
UCSB has been a one-and-done team just once in its 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, with that one time coming in the second round of the competition in 2008 after a 3-2 double overtime loss to Cal.
The last two NCAA Tournament matches between UCSB and Cal (2008, 2010) have gone to overtime. The Gauchos have a 4-4-2 overtime record in the NCAA Tournament.
Santa Barbara has seen its games go to penalty kicks twice: first in the 2004 College Cup final vs Indiana (the Hoosiers won 3-2 on penalties), and then in the 2006 College Cup semifinal vs Wake Forest (the Gauchos won 4-3 on penalties).
• The Gaucho Rewind, Matchday 20: Big West Tournament Final
UCSB was defeated by UC Davis 2-0 in the Big West Tournament Final as the Aggies earned their program's first conference tournament title. UC Davis caused problems on both sides of the ball and in all areas of the field, stifling the Gauchos' creativity in the final third, winning aerial duels in the midfield, and forcing the defense into costly errors. It was two second-half goals that would doom the Gauchos, who were searching for their second Big West Tournament victory in program history.
• Rematch in Round One
Thursday's game will be a rematch of the two teams' earlier matchup on Sept. 7, which Cal won 3-0. UCSB was missing Hunter Ashworth and Noah Billingsley on international duty, was without Finn Ballard McBride due to ineligibility, and did not have Faouzi Taieb available due to injury.
• Scouting the Opposition: California
Cal has never played an NCAA Tournament first round match away from home, but the Golden Bears are 4-1-0 in the opening round. Cal finished the season in red-hot form with wins at top-five teams in Washington and Stanford. Thomas Williamson leads the way with nine goals, while Alonzo Del Mundo, who torched the Gauchos on Sept. 7 with a triple-assist game, provides nine assists.
• The Road to Cary
If the Gauchos advance to the second round, they will travel up to 12th-seeded St. Mary's in Moraga, the site of their 1-0 double-overtime loss to the Gaels last season, on Sunday. On the other side of UCSB's immediate portion of the bracket, No. 5 seed Indiana awaits the winner of Kentucky vs. Loyola Chicago. Whomever emerges from the second round will meet in the third round on either Nov. 30 or Dec. 1. After that, the quarterfinals take place on Dec. 6 or 7, and then the College Cup will be on Dec. 13 and 15 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
• 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).
• 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 eighth-straight week, the Gauchos remain fully ranked in all four polls. United Soccer Coaches, Top Drawer Soccer, and College Soccer News all have UCSB at the No. 22 team in the country, while Soccer America place them at No. 21.
• 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 nine 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. The sophomore has started every game for the Gauchos this year.
• 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.

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