The UCSB men’s soccer team will continue on its current stretch of four straight road games today when it visits Loyola Marymount for its first non-conference game this month.
The Gauchos are looking forward to returning to form after a loss and a tie this past weekend dropped them to 6-4-2 overall and 2-1-1 in the Big West. After going unbeaten in their last four games, the Lions enter tonight’s matchup at 5-3-3 overall.
“I just want to make sure we play well on Tuesday and get back to playing soccer,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “The next four games after [today] will decide the conference championship so we need to go back to playing well. You have to learn how to play well and get results on the road”
After a disappointing and frustrating weekend, the Gauchos are looking to use the game against LMU as a means of getting back on track.
Despite kicking off its Big West campaign with huge wins over conference rivals Cal State Northridge and No. 6 UC Irvine two weekends ago, UCSB has failed to duplicate that success so far on the road. A loss to Cal State Fullerton and a tie with UC Riverside has put the Gauchos in a less-than-ideal position, but they know that they have plenty of time to fix their season.
“Our goal is to win every game and we’re still not out of it,” Vom Steeg said. “We’re in a situation where we have two more road games and I’m hoping that we will go back on Tuesday night to putting the ball on the ground, playing the way we want to play and moving in that direction again.”
With the conference season in full swing, it seemed that UCSB had found its groove offensively at the perfect time but it has struggled in recent games, averaging less than one goal per game over the last three.
Leading the way for the Gauchos are sophomore midfielder Nick DePuy and sophomore left back Drew Murphy, who lead their team with nine points apiece. Murphy is tied for the Big West lead with five assists and has tallied two goals on the year, while DePuy leads the team with four goals. However, the team knows that offensive production will have to come from other players.
“[Freshman midfielder] Axel Mendez and [freshman forward] Ludwig Ahl played about ten minutes on Saturday because, I’ll be honest, Saturday was just not a game we could trap and pass,” Vom Steeg said. “We should be able to get those players back on the field on Tuesday and find a rhythm and move the ball around.”
While the Gauchos enter Tuesday in search of a bounce-back victory, it won’t be easy going against a very hot Loyola Marymount side. The Lions have outscored opponents by a total of 9-2 in their last four outings while picking up a pair of shutouts.
Offensively, LMU is powered by a pair of midfielders in sophomore Adrien Perez and senior Sebastian De Rada, who each have ten total points on the season. De Rada comes into tonight’s game leading his team with four assists while Perez has a team-high four goals.
Both teams have seen a similar split in playtime this season at the goalkeeper position. Santa Barbara’s freshman goalkeeper Brandon Berke earned the starting spot after going 4-0 while filling in for injured sophomore Josh McNeely, but after going winless and giving up three goals this past weekend, the Gauchos might be seeing a switch back to the more experienced McNeely.
In the net for the Lions is a stellar pair of junior keepers in Vince Paldino and Paul Blanchette. The duo have conceded just ten total goals this year, giving their team a GAA (goals against average) of just 0.85.
“For two days we had to play a different kind of soccer game,” Vom Steeg said. “We couldn’t do what we want to do or what is going to lead to success, and hopefully tonight we’ll go back to that.”
The matchup between these two teams has been dominated in recent years by Santa Barbara, with its last loss to LMU coming in upset fashion all the way back in 2009.
The game will be played tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Sullivan Field in Los Angeles.