Rodney Michael narrowly avoids a slide-tackle to keep possession. Dustin Harris/Daily Nexus

It is now the penultimate matchup of the season for the UCSB men’s soccer team going into its final home match of the season versus Sacramento State. Entering Wednesday, two matches remain on the Gauchos’ schedule. Now, much more is on the line as UCSB is not only trying to defend its home turf, but is also fighting for the No. 1 seed in the Big West.

Coming off a 5-0 loss to current first place UC Davis, Santa Barbara currently sits in second place with 14 points in the Big West Northern division standings. Following closely behind with 13 points is third place Sacramento State, who recently routed Cal Poly last weekend by a score of 5-1.

Wednesday will be the second meeting between the Gauchos and Hornets this season. Both teams initially faced each other last Wednesday at Hornet Field, which resulted in a 2-1 OT win for UCSB.

For the majority of the first match, both teams were knotted at one goal apiece. In the end, the Gauchos came out on top and handed the Hornets their third loss of their conference schedule.

Following their collapse against the Aggies over the weekend, the Gauchos’ defensive line will need to clean up its play to put themselves in the best position to possibly win. UCSB will be forced to keep its head on a swivel against a Hornets’ offense that is potent on the offensive end. Sac State currently boasts 11 different scorers on the year, who have combined for a total of 26 goals. In comparison, the Gauchos only have seven different scorers on the team and a combined total of 17 goals.

More specifically, UCSB’s defensive agenda should have the names of Sac State’s two most productive players – Christian Webb and Justin Bedig – circled on its radar. Midfielder/forward Christian Webb currently still stands as his team’s leading goal scorer with six goals.

Meanwhile, Bedig found himself doing both scoring and playmaking last week with a goal and assist for his team. Both players will enter Wednesday still with a hot hand approach, as the UCSB defense, led by freshman goalkeeper Alan Carillo, will hope to prevent the two from having many scoring opportunities.

As much as a defensive battle, UCSB’s offense will look for a repeat performance from its last time out against Sac State. In the 2-1 OT victory, it was freshman forward Rodney Michael’s moment as he notched both goals, including the golden goal, to lead the Gauchos to their victory.

Nonetheless, it’ll be up to the playmaking abilities of sophomore Ignacio Tellechea and senior defender Randy Mendoza, in addition to the hopeful return of sophomore forward Noah Billingsley who was absent in the Gauchos’ lopsided loss, that will be influential factors upon UCSB’s chance of winning in its final bout at Harder Stadium. All three players have contributed to a combined total of seven team assists on the season.

The Gauchos will host the visiting Sac State Hornets this Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium.