Harder Stadium probably looks damn good right now for the reigning Big West champs.
[media-credit id=16616 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]After struggling to score just a single goal in the team’s past two road games, Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg and company are set to face UC Riverside at Meredith Field on Saturday in their last match of the season. The team will honor its three seniors before the match.
“It’s going to be pretty emotional,” senior defender Michael Boxall said. “But it’s just another game, and we have to get the job done. I’ve had a blast the past four years with the students and the Locos that show up week in and it’s just an amazing atmosphere to play in.”
Boxall joins goalkeeper Sam Hayden and forward Joe Eubanks as the only seniors on this Gaucho squad.
“Boxall has been a four-year starter and of course Sam has been great the last two,” Vom Steeg said. “It’s not our biggest senior class, but nonetheless they have contributed significantly to our success. Eubanks has been a great locker room guy and a good leader in terms of being a senior.”
Vom Steeg was quick to warn of the dangers of being overemotional in such a key game.
“What you don’t want to do on senior night is get caught up in it,” Vom Steeg said. “Next thing you know, you really need to win because you leave your game in the locker room. It’s not senior night for Riverside.”
UC Irvine was poised to wrap up the Big West regular season title, but circumstances changed on Wednesday when Irvine lost to last-place CSU Northridge. Another Anteater loss or tie, along with a Gaucho win tomorrow, gives the Big West regular season title to UCSB.
In the Gauchos’ last match against Riverside, they won 4-3 after coming back from a deficit twice. With goal opportunities coming sparingly as of late, UCSB should be on the attack early.
“We’ve got to just keep plugging away,” sophomore forward Sam Garza said. “The Cal Poly game was tough game for us and Irvine too. I think we were a little tired and it was evident from our play. We weren’t making runs and the finishing looked lackadaisical.”
Despite its recent offensive struggles, UCSB still has managed to outshoot its opponent in every game this season, leading opponents 264 to just 143. The squad will look to continue that trend against Riverside — a team that still has postseason aspirations after two straight wins — while slowing down the team that scored three goals from five shots on goal the last time these schools met.
“I certainly think we can get four goals, but I’m not sure that we’re going to give up three this time,” Vom Steeg said. “They’re a bit of a one-dimensional team in that they don’t send a lot of players forward. I don’t see us giving up three goals to anybody, but that was all part of that game.”
UCSB is on the verge of setting yet another attendance record this season, becoming when it the only school in NCAA history to average 5,000 fans per game even with no people showing up to Saturday’s match.
“We love playing at home,” Garza said. “We love playing on that big field, with the electric atmosphere, and we love playing in front of our fans. It’s not a given, we have to come out and work for our win, but it’ll be fun.”
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 7 p.m. After the match, the Gauchos have a break until Nov. 10 when the Big West Championships begin, for which UCSB has secured at least one home match.