#1 UCSB will get its first audition as the #1 team in the country tonight at Harder Stadium at 7 against Big West opponent Riverside.
The match marks the beginning of conference play for Santa Barbara while the Highlanders are 1-0 in the Big West, and both teams seem to be playing their best soccer in their respective program histories.
While the Gauchos enter the game at 6-0-0, including three wins over ranked opponents, the Highlanders boast a 4-1-0 record including a three-game win streak and are fresh off a tournament win at the Husky Invitational.
“We have much better team chemistry, we’re much deeper this year and we finally have a senior class, so things are definitely looking up this year,” Highlander Head Coach Junior Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is in his first year as head coach of the Highlanders after being promoted from assistant coach. Last year, the Highlanders posted a 7-10-1 record, their best ever in their three years at the Division 1 level.
“Santa Barbara’s been a good team the last four years, and they’ve proven themselves time and time again, so we’re just going to have to play our game, contain their top players like [Drew] McAthy and [Neil] Jones,” Gonzalez said. “They’re a very dangerous team, but we’re excited to play such a good opponent.”
Despite having proven themselves against the top teams in the nation over the past two weeks, UCSB knows anything can happen out on the soccer field.
“There’s 14 games left and the toughest part of our schedule is out of the way,” senior striker McAthy said.