They say that first impressions last forever. The UCSB men’s soccer team hopes that this phrase holds true for its season as well.
Santa Barbara anticipates that its early domination will impress the pollsters and the voters of the NCAA tournament committee in a few months. After downing Westmont 5-2 on Saturday night at Harder Stadium, the Gauchos moved to 6-0 for the season.
Sophomore forward Drew McAthy and senior forward Rob Friend scored two goals apiece in the convincing victory. Junior midfielder Memo Arzate led the way with three assists, setting up three different UCSB attackers for goals. Arzate, a transfer from Compton College, has been a pleasant surprise for UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg and the rest of the squad with his stellar presence on the midfield line.
“Memo has been the best player for us,” junior forward Gene Deering said.
“It’s been a collective effort so far, and I’m happy to see us doing that,” Vom Steeg said.
With their perfect 6-0 record, the Gauchos have now moved into the top 25 in all four of the major national polls. Santa Barbara finally broke the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/adidas coaches’ poll, which is widely considered the most respected and revered of all the national polls, posting a No. 25 slot.
UCSB is one of four West Coast teams on the coveted list.
College Soccer News awarded the Gauchos a No. 21 national ranking, their highest spot ever. Last week, Santa Barbara made history by cracking a national top-25 poll for the first time in its 37-year existence. Its national rankings have sparked a sense of accomplishment for this year’s squad, which felt it was snubbed by the NCAA last season.
“At first, I didn’t really look at polls but rather team progression,” Vom Steeg said. “But the fact of the matter is that recruits look at polls, people look at polls and the committee looks at polls.”
In six matches this year, UCSB has outscored its opponents 26-9. The early success has been due, largely in part, to the performances of a balanced offense that consistently strikes the back of the net and a tenacious defense that has yielded little penetration in its third of the field.
“We just keep getting stronger and stronger and continue to pick up steam,” Friend said. “We trained so well this year that we are just clicking as a team.”
The Gauchos host Sacramento State at 1 p.m. on Sunday in an attempt to keep their flawless record alive.