If the Gauchos don’t watch out, they might not have any rivals left after this season.
The top-ranked UCSB men’s soccer team will make the quick hike north to San Luis Obispo on Saturday to renew its longest rivalry, but proximity is the only thing that has been close between these two teams in recent history. Santa Barbara not only owns the all-time series 31-12-2, but the Gauchos have won all six matches since Big West soccer reconvened.
“I think it’s more of a rivalry for them,” senior forward Matt Bly said. “I think they look at us, ya know we’re doing well and we’ve got the number one ranking so they’ll be fired up and have a lot of people there, but we are definitely taking them seriously.”
UCSB comes off what was easily their shakiest performance of the year, a 4-3 double-overtime nail-biter that probably never would have been so close had UCSB sported more than a fraction of their starting defense
“I’m just going to be glad to get everybody back in the back,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Obviously a win like (Wednesday’s) gives you a lot of confidence so I feel good about Saturday night.”
Senior defender Tony Lochhead and freshman defender Andy Iro will be back in the mix for Santa Barbara, but sophomore defender Greg Curry must sit again due to two red cards in the portfolio.
Cal Poly is fresh off its worse loss of the year, a 3-0 spanking at the hands of the team that will decidedly be the largest hurdle in the Gauchos trek to the Big West title. A 3-2-3 record is still good enough for the fourth best record in the six-team conference.
“We know with all these conference games we’re going to get everybody’s A-game,” Bly said. “We’ve got a target on us.”
Saturday’s game is slated for a 7 p.m. start at Cal Poly.