Senior midfielder Dan Young has taken the road less traveled in becoming co-captain of the Big West Champion UCSB men’s soccer team.

Young walked on his freshman year in hopes of playing Division I soccer. He chose Santa Barbara over USC and Santa Clara because the Gauchos offered him the best shot at competing at the highest collegiate level. But the life of a walk-on is hard, and earning a spot on the team was no guarantee.

“They knew I had played for a pretty good club team, but I had to go out for two to three days of tryouts, and there were no guarantees,” Young said. “The coach posted 30 spots, I was number 28.”

Young redshirted his first fall at Santa Barbara and spent his first two seasons watching the Gauchos from the sidelines as the team struggled to become one of the elite teams in the Big West.

“I always had to believe that sometime was going to be my time,” Young said. “Everybody wants to be on the field; I knew my work would pay off.”

During the 2001 season, Young proved that his time had come. Dan established himself as an aggressive midfielder with the ability to push the ball up the field, earning him an All-Big West Honorable Mention selection. He tallied two goals and two assists for the year. With his improving play and leadership abilities on the field, Young was awarded co-captain of the 2002 team.

“We asked Dan to play a new position this year, taking on a more defensive role. He’s covered the other team’s best player night in and night out, and he has done well,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “He’s a complete team player.”

Young has thrived in his role, tallying four goals – including one for a game-winner – and two assists to go along with his stout defense. But Young remains humble about what he has accomplished.

“I play smart and simple,” he said. “I know I’m not the best player on the field, but I bring leadership and experience.”

Santa Barbara hopes Young’s impressive play, as well as its own, continues tonight against Fullerton, a team that hurt the Gauchos playoff chances a year ago. The Titans defeated Santa Barbara 3-2 in the final game of the season a year ago.

“Fullerton is our favorite team to beat,” senior forward Rob Friend said. “They screwed us over last year, and they said stuff about how beating us knocked us out of the playoffs. We’re definitely fired up.”

The Titans stumbled to open the year, but have since hit their stride after an amazing upset at home against then #1 Indiana. Fullerton enters the contest at 8-7-3 overall, 4-2-2 in the Big West. Junior forward Hector Orellana leads Fullerton with 11 goals.

“We are very much in control of our own destiny as far as reaching the NCAA playoffs,” CSUF Head Coach Al Mistri said. “[A win over UCSB] would dramatically improve our chances.”

But that is no easy task. The Gauchos (15-2-1, 7-0-1) have yet to lose a conference match and will hope to become the first Santa Barbara team to win 17 games in a season.

“UCSB has clearly proven they are the class of the conference,” Mistri said.