Here we go again. UCSB and Cal Poly face off tonight, likely in front of a record crowd, on senior night, with the Big West Championship riding on the line. From a fan’s perspective, this rivalry keeps getting better. The players, on the other hand, just might think differently.
“Nothing’s different,” senior forward Nick Perera said. “We’ve been taking it the same as every other game.
“We just have to keep attacking the way we did in the first game.”
Perera is of course referring to UCSB’s 1-0 defeat over Cal Poly on Oct. 17. The game went into double overtime before senior co-captain Chris Pontius knocked in the game-winning goal off junior forward David Walker’s cross just 10 seconds after the final kickoff. Pontius’ goal silenced a Big West record crowd of 11,075 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, and gave UCSB increased leverage in the conference title chase.
Now Santa Barbara is trying to break that record at Harder Stadium, as well as the all-time NCAA regular season home record. To do so, UCSB will need 12,225 fans to pack the stands. However, the goal for the night remains a victory.
If UCSB wins, the Gauchos will continue the dominance they have enjoyed over the conference in the Tim Vom Steeg era. If UCSB loses, Cal Poly clinches its first ever title.
“We’re used to winning the league in some sort of strange way… but tomorrow everything’s in our hands,” Perera said. “If we win, we win.”
Cal Poly is led by David Zamora, Julian Alvarez and Kyle Montgomery. Zamora is the goal-scorer for the Mustangs, with seven on the year. Montgomery is the setup man, with a whopping nine assists. Alvarez provides some balance to the attack, with five goals and four assists to his credit.
The Gauchos hope to contain the Mustang attack like they did in San Luis Obispo and get better production from the forwards. Pontius and Perera have led the way for UCSB on offense, with 18 goals between them. Pontius leads the team with 13, and is in contention for postseason honors if he keeps up his pace.
Both forwards are seniors, as is defenseman Alfonso Motagalvan. This will be the last regular season home game for the three of them.
“I’ve been very grateful for the amount of support we’ve gotten over my years here,” Perera said. “After you’ve played here, it’s very hard to imagine playing anywhere else.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., but expect long lines at the gates.