When’s the last time you had the best of the best right outside your own campus, only a couple of blocks away from your own apartment? Open your eyes, everyone; the time is now, at Harder Stadium.
We at UCSB enjoy an envied reputation of being party animals, beer lovers and beach studs/babes. Lately, we are also becoming known across America for our numerous Nobel Prizes, definitely ameliorating the academic stance of our great university. But something we have seldom been seriously known for on a national scale is athletics. We did have a couple of great women’s volleyball seasons in the far past, and our women’s basketball team has been kicking ass recently, but a random student in Connecticut or Oklahoma would not likely label Santa Barbara as an athletic powerhouse, as they would with Duke, UConn or UCLA. Times have changed, though, in at least one sport.
Our men’s soccer team is nothing less than a true marvel. It is made up of 26 super-motivated and committed athletes who are all amazingly focused on the same goal: winning a national championship. And boy does it have the capability to achieve its dream this year.
The Gauchos were ranked #1 in the nation for almost a month and are currently #2, merely because the top team has gone undefeated by playing a bunch of unranked, boneless opponents. They are sporting a record of 11-1-1, equaling the all-time best start in program history and setting a new record for unbeaten starts, going 12 games without a loss.
CollegeSoccerNews.com awarded Danny Kennedy the National Player of the Week award in September and has named three Gauchos in its National Team of the Week since the beginning of the season. For four weeks in a row, the Big West Athlete of the Week award was given to a member of the UCSB men’s soccer team.
It would be quite unreasonable to say that this particular team has lacked recognition at the national level, both individually and as a team, in its first two months of the season. So why does it struggle to gain recognition from its own local students?
There is an average of 1,100 people at the soccer games played at Harder Stadium. That is a very good turnout, considering that soccer is not one of the most popular sports in the United States, but it is a really low turnout considering two other factors. We are lucky enough to have one of our own teams in serious NCAA title contention, admittance to games is free for students, and yet the stadium is not full? That doesn’t make sense to me.
When I look around the stands, usually during the very funny and touching halftime entertainment show provided by local youth soccer teams, I notice that the fans are mostly parents or children; in other words, mostly families from Goleta and Santa Barbara. The students I do notice have a particular affiliation: They are athletes. How does such a good team, playing such an amazing sport, not attract thousands and thousands of fans from a university with almost 20,000 students?
Many soccer fanatics will join me in urging you to show up to one of our men’s soccer games. Show some support for student-athletes who are, in addition to maintaining a reasonable GPA, working their asses off to achieve a goal that would make all of us even more proud of being at UCSB.
Maybe we are not used to going out there to support a real, winning Santa Barbara team, but this is definitely the time to do it, because what the soccer team has going for it is something incredibly special. The team has a concrete chance of realizing a dream – a national championship brought to UCSB and to all of its students – which would make UCSB a school known across the country for yet another reason.