Coming off a tiring, scoreless draw in the Blue-Green rivalry game last weekend, the UCSB men’s soccer team heads north for a road game Wednesday against Sac State and will play its final match before playoffs back at Harder against UC Davis on Sunday.
Still unbeaten in Big West play, UCSB will be mindful of its chance to go undefeated in conference for the first time since 2013.
Santa Barbara enters its last week of the regular season 9-5-3 overall, 5-0-3 in the Big West, and can clinch the North division with a tie in either match. They can also secure the best record in the entire conference with a single victory in its final two games.
Sac State sits at 8-6-2 overall and second in the North Division of the Big West at 4-3-1 while UC Davis trails just behind its Nor-Cal rival with its 7-8-2 overall record and its 3-5-0 conference record.
The Gaucho offense had been on fire lately, but Saturday was not their night as they were held scoreless for the first time since Sept. in last weekend’s match against Cal Poly.
Senior striker Nick DePuy and junior forward Ahinga Selemani led the charge in the physical clash with five and three shots respectively, but neither was able to add to their six goals on the season. The defense did its part as well, holding the Mustangs to just two shots in the 110-minute match.
Junior midfielder Kevin Feucht has owned the midfield all year for UCSB, leading the team with 10 goals — the highest in the Big West and tied for 12th in the nation. The German has been the driving force in the middle of the park for the Gauchos, popping up in all the right areas with an engine-like work-rate.
The trio of DePuy, Feucht and Selemani has been stellar to say the least as each player ranks top-5 in the conference for goals.
However, after forcing a draw at Harder Stadium the last time it met UCSB, Sac State will like their chances with the division leaders coming to town. The Hornets got their first point at UCSB since the Tim Vom Steeg era took over back in 1999, while also halting the Gauchos’ then three-game winning streak.
As things stand, the Hornets look likely to find their way into Big West playoffs, and could pull off a shocking division title with a win in their next two matches along with the help of two Santa Barbara losses this weekend.
That being said, it’s a tall task considering how UCSB has tightened up in the back in recent weeks and has seemingly found the formula of fighting through tough games to get positive results.
The Gauchos have played five overtime matches in league thus far — posting a 2-0-3 record in those matches — and although the long games might take a bit of a physical toll, the side will be one of the most tested teams around come postseason play.
Following their five-game losing streak, Vom Steeg’s men have yet to lose and, despite dropping out of the Coaches’ Poll after peaking as high as No. 4, have managed to climb their way back into the conversation, receiving a vote for the first time in nearly a month and a half.
On Sunday, six players will be honored at Senior Night for the outgoing class’ final home game of the regular season. DePuy; senior midfielders Seo-In Kim, Josue España and Riley Peterson; and senior defenders Andy Perez and Josue Salgado will all be hoping to end their final season with a postseason run.
Wednesday’s match will be played against Sac State at 3 p.m. at Hornet Soccer Field.
The senior day battle against UC Davis will take place on Sunday, Oct. 30, at Harder Stadium at 2 p.m. The game will be aired on BigWestTV.