When things have looked bleak for the UCSB men’s soccer team, players have stepped up late in games en route to the Gauchos claiming six straight victories. Currently ranked No. 2 in the RPI rankings, the Gauchos hope to avoid another emotional game when they host last-place Sacramento State tonight at Harder Stadium.
UCSB has prevailed in three straight come-from-behind overtime victories to improve its record to 10-4 overall and 5-0 in the Big West. Sacramento State, meanwhile, is a polar opposite of UCSB, losing five straight matches for a 2-8-3 overall record and 0-5 conference mark.
“It is very easy to overlook someone, especially when the other team is 0-5 in conference. We can’t afford to slip up right now,” freshman midfielder Drew Murphy said. “If we can make it 6-0 on Tuesday night, then that puts us in a very good situation for the rest of the season.”
UCSB enters today’s match coming off a thrilling 3-2 double overtime victory over UC Davis, the Gauchos third straight overtime road victory. Murphy garnered a goal and the game-winning assist, earning him Big West Offensive Player of the Week honors. This is the third straight week a Gaucho has taken home a player of the week award with senior defender Peter Schmetz and freshman goalkeeper Josh McNeely taking home Defensive Player of the Week honors the previous two weeks.
“We’re excited to play at home and hopefully we show up with a lot of energy,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “It’d be great to put a couple of balls away early and give ourselves a little bit of breathing room in the game.”
Despite the string of victories, there is worry amongst the UCSB coaching staff about the emotional toll all of these comeback wins could have on the team.
“We’ve just been on this emotional roller coaster, that at some point, might crash,” Vom Steeg said. “That’s a bigger concern; I don’t think we’ll overlook Sac State.”
Sacramento State enters as the only winless team in conference play and has been outscored 10-2 during the team’s five-game losing skid. The Hornets rank last in the conference with a mere seven goals scored in 13 matches this season, while ranking second-to-last with 21 goals allowed.
However, senior goalkeeper Cesar Castillo ranks first in the conference with a .789 save percentage, despite allowing 1.5 goals per game.
Already up three games in the Big West North Division, UCSB inches closer to clinching a conference tournament birth already, with five matches still remaining on the schedule.
“We’re looking to get the three points and to get a lead in conference,” senior defensive midfielder Fifi Baiden said. “That will allow the coaches to rest some of the guys that have played a lot of minutes so we can all be fresh and ready to go for the conference tournament.”
Currently at the halfway point of conference play, a victory today would ensure the Gauchos finish above .500 in conference play.
Tuesday’s match is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff time.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 22nd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of the Daily Nexus.