The reverie is over for the UCSB men’s soccer team and reality has set in.
Thanks to an awakening from LMU last weekend, the Gauchos now know they are vulnerable, no matter how well they play.
“It’s been a rough week, but the loss was good in a way,” senior striker Neil Jones said. “It kind of brought us back down to earth. We were on cloud nine for a while there.”
And they would still be there if the Gauchos could have capitalized on one of their 23 shots on goal. LMU, despite only taking 10 shots, would still prove victorious with just one goal.
“I think it’s good to remember the feeling of a loss like that,” junior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy said. “Every time you lose, if you can learn from it, you can be a great team.”
The Gauchos will try not to make a habit of it, but it won’t be easy.
The University of New Mexico visits Harder Stadium Sunday, sporting a team quite similar to the LMU team that dropped the Gauchos from No. 9 in the nation to No. 20.
New Mexico’s attack is rooted in their midfield, similar to LMU’s. The Lobos have been to the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons and played No. 1 UCLA yesterday.
“We played them in spring and they’ve played two other [Big West] opponents, so we’re familiar with their team,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “They’re very explosive offensively and they won 17 games last year.
“We’re really just concentrating on what we have to do to be successful though.”
At the top of Santa Barbara’s to-do list will be translating shots-on-goal into goals scored. Granted, the cookie didn’t exactly crumble the Gauchos’ way in their first loss, but their numerous opportunities were undeniable.
“We didn’t finish well at all. We watched the tape yesterday and saw it,” Jones said. “Me and Drew missed on several opportunities, and we just can’t do that.”
The fact that UCSB will be without two of their starters will force them to be even more opportunistic. Senior midfielder and captain David McGill will be out for 3 to 5 weeks with a high ankle sprain, while junior defender Tony Lochhead will be suiting up for his native country of New Zealand this weekend. Vom Steeg has yet to determine his starting lineup this weekend, but there is plenty of confidence entrusted in his reserves.
“You know, this team wants to go to the Final Four this year, and if you’re gonna go that far, you have to have a solid bench,” Jones said.