After clinching home-field advantage throughout the Big West Tournament and a first-round bye with this past Sunday’s win at Cal Poly, the UCSB men’s soccer team plays its final regular season game today against Sacramento State.
At 9-6-3 overall, and with the best record in the conference at 5-2-2, the Gauchos enter today’s matchup knowing that it is little more than a final tune-up before they host the Big West Semi Finals next Wednesday. The Hornets, meanwhile, have surprisingly jumped over Cal Poly in the standings thanks to a timely two-game winning streak and currently own the final playoff spot in the Big West North Division. At 6-9-3 overall and 4-4-1 in the Big West, Sac State can clinch a playoff berth with a win over UCSB.
Ever since their season’s longest road trip of four games ended just over two weeks ago, the Gauchos have been one of the hottest teams in the country. In their last four games alone, they have been outstanding on both sides of the ball, outscoring opponents 9-3 on their way to a 3-0-1 record.
One of the big reasons for their recent form has been sophomore forward Nick DePuy, who was just named College Soccer News’ National Player of the Week for the second time this season after scoring three goals, including two game-winners, against UC Davis and Cal Poly this past week.
DePuy also tallied a Big West single-game high of nine shots against the Aggies last Wednesday. With eight goals this year, he has at least twice as many goals as any other Gaucho and ranks second in the conference.
Freshman forward Ludwig Ahl has also been in fine form in recent games, hooking up with DePuy for two assists in the team’s road win against Cal Poly. Totaling four goals and four assists this season, Ahl has the second most offensive points on his team with 12.
Additionally, sophomores Drew Murphy and Ismaila Jome have each tallied five assists on the year, putting both of them in a tie for number one in the Big West.
While the Gauchos finally got off the mark on Sunday with their first conference road win of 2014, they can now rest easy knowing that the Big West Tournament will have to come through Harder Stadium. UCSB has been nearly unbeatable at home this season, going 7-1-2 at Harder compared to 2-4-2 in all other games.
Despite Wednesday’s game with Sac State being a no-bearing game for the Gauchos, they will likely have no intentions of taking their foot off the gas pedal. The Hornets are powered offensively by senior forward Chimdum Mez, who has a team-high seven goals this season.
As a team, Sac State is the hottest it has been all season, having won each of its last two games in hostile road environments. With Saturday’s remarkable overtime win over UC Davis, one of the top defenses in the nation, the Hornets tied a season-high with three goals, including two from sophomore defender Andrew Gosselin. They are also on a season-high two-game winning streak within which they have scored five goals, their most in a two-game span this year.
Once UCSB finishes its season against Sac State, it will then wait to play the Quarterfinal winner between the second seed in the South and the third seed in the North next Wednesday at home.
The match with the Hornets will begin at 2:00 p.m. today at Hornet Soccer Field.