A lesser team would be worried about UCLA – but not the Gauchos.
The UCSB men’s soccer team not only has to recover from a tough 3-1 loss to San Jose State, but the team lost two players as well. Junior midfielder Dan Young was red-carded for his involvement in an on-field scuffle, while sophomore forward Gene Deering was sidelined with an ankle sprain. Yet, the Gauchos remain unnerved.
“We were more worried about Westmont,” said senior defender and defensive anchor Reuben Bates. Santa Barbara shut out Westmont 1-0 on Sept. 19.
“UCLA is a good team, but they’re nothing we can’t handle,” Bates said.
The Bruins are not slouches, either. Ranked 11th in Soccer America this week and 20th in the NSCAA rankings, the Bruins are coming off a big win against Fullerton and are looking to continue the streak. They have, after all, won 14 straight against the Gauchos, who enjoyed their last victory over UCLA in 1982, before some current Santa Barbara players were even born.
The teams do match up well. UCSB boasts a defense with two New Zealand national players, freshman Tony Lochhead and sophomore Neil Jones, and also has held its opponents to one goal or less in five out of six total games, shutting out three opponents so far. In fact, the Gauchos have held their opponents to three or less shots in half their games thus far.
However, the Gaucho defense will be asked to stand its ground. UCLA junior forward Tim Pierce has emerged as the Bruins’ main offensive threat and has scored in four of his last five games. Pierce has earned Pac-Ten player of the week honors so far this season as well as being named tournament MVP at the USF Diadora Classic.
The Gauchos also boast their own go-to man. Junior forward Rob Friend has totaled two goals and two assists on the year and has himself been named player of the week for the Big West.
Even without Deering and Young, the Gauchos remain confident. After all, they boast senior forward Jaime Ambriz back on the field. Ambriz, the team’s second leading scorer last season, tallied 13 points including six goals and a single assist.
“It’s nice to get Jaime back,” senior forward Joe Hubay-Dies said. “He’s a key player and he’s very technically skilled.”
Santa Barbara has been practicing hard since its last frustrating, injury-marred game.
“We feel very prepared,” sophomore midfielder Matt Kubota said. “And we’re hoping for a good crowd.”