Team buses will be gassed up for the final road trip of the season today as the UCSB men’s soccer team heads south to face Cal State Northridge. It will be the first and only time the two teams will face each other during regular season play.
The Gauchos currently hold a No. 4 ranking in the Big West with an 11-5-1 overall record and a 4-4-0 record in league play. Northridge is 7-7-3 overall and 3-3-2 in the Big West with a No. 5 place ranking.
“As a team, we all felt the last four games were all must-wins,” junior forward Dom Sarle said. “[Winning will] put ourselves in a good spot for the Big West tournament and eventually the NCAA tournament.”
The Matadors have competed well with teams this season that have beaten UCSB. A 3-2 victory over UCLA on the road at the beginning of the season is one of the strongest standing victories on CSUN’s schedule, while the Gauchos were defeated by the same score while on the road against UCLA a month prior to the Northridge victory.
“We know they’re a good team,” Sarle said. “They have a lot of players that are capable of hurting us.”
Northridge’s defense ranks high among Big West opponents. The Matadors are first in league in shutouts with eight total this season, and are ranked No. 2 overall in goals allowed with 1.06 scores per game. CSUN also ranks No. 2 in shots per game, averaging an even 16 attempts per match. UCSB falls just short with 15.76 shots per match.
Gaucho senior midfielder Luis Silva leads the league in goals scored with 13 total on the season. Silva was recently awarded multiple honors for his performances of late, including Big West Offensive Player of the Week and a part of the College Soccer News National Team of the Week.
“He puts himself in situations where he gets chances [to score],” junior defender Peter Schmetz said. “He’s a good goalscorer and we need goals to win a game.”
Tonight’s match will be the final home game for Cal State Northridge. The senior celebration night will add to the already harsh circumstances of playing on the road for UCSB.
“We’re used to playing in front of a big crowd,” Schmetz said. “I don’t care if it’s their senior day or not.”
With the Big West tournament quickly approaching, every conference team is entering the final stretch of the season. UCSB must keep its top-four ranking in league play in order to qualify for the postseason Big West tournament.
Though Santa Barbara’s chances of making the tournament are good regardless of the team’s finish in the Big West, its NCAA tournament standing could be greatly improved should the squad do well over the course of the final two conference games, beginning with tonight’s match at Northridge.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. tonight at Cal State Northridge.