It’s official – the UCSB men’s soccer team is currently the best in the land.
As of Tuesday, the Gauchos are by consensus the #1 team as the NSCAA/Adidas Coaches’ Poll, the NCAA’s chief team-ranking poll, tabbed them tops in the land, following in suit with Soccer Times, Soccer America and College Soccer News.
“It feels good, but now the test is how long we can stay there,” senior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy said.
Santa Barbara earned its first-ever #1 ranking last week when Soccer America declared them the best, but it took the other three polls a little longer to come around. Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg’s squad has raced out to a perfect 8-0-0 start and appears to be on cruise control after 3-0 and 4-0 wins over UC Riverside and UNLV, respectively.
“In the last two years we have had amazing offensive teams. Last year we lost to St. John’s [in the Elite Eight] 3-2,” Kennedy said. “If we put ourselves in a situation where we’re scoring two goals a game, we should win every single game, and we’ve never had a short end on offense. … Our weakness has always been in the back, and this year we’ve seemed to solve that problem.
With the #1 rank solidified, it would seem that the only way this Santa Barbara team could top its opening act would be with an undefeated regular season.
“It’s pretty tough to do in soccer,” senior defender Tony Lochhead said. “I even think sometimes it’s good to have a loss so you have that feeling with you that you don’t want to have ever again.”
The NSCAA top five is rounded out by University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Penn State, Creighton University and University of New Mexico. The landscape of the college soccer rankings has changed drastically since the NSCAA announced its preseason rankings. Indiana is the only team remaining in the top 10 from the season’s start.
“With the preseason polls, the teams change a lot from year-to-year, and basically all [the pollsters] do is look at who finished where the year before,” Kennedy said. “Really, the committees who are putting together that poll don’t know how good teams are going to be and they don’t know how good our nine new guys coming in are gonna be.”
UCSB has outscored its opponents 18-1 thus far and has exhibited complete dominance on the field -especially on the defensive end. Kennedy currently boasts a 0.12 goals-against average and the team feels it will be his defense that will get them through the upcoming challenges in the bulk of the Big West schedule.
“It’s a combination of the new guys in the back and the three veterans on the field, then me in the back,” Kennedy said. “We definitely bring some experience and it seems to be the best of both worlds.”
The Gauchos will take their consensus #1 ranking on the road this Friday to the University of San Francisco, a team that has jumped off to a 5-1 record; its best start since 1991.
” [Vom Steeg] said they’re a very physical team and they’re playing at home, so they’ll have an advantage – especially since we’ll be playing on their artificial turf.”