Maybe it was the ocean views, or the opportunity to play the nationally ranked UCSB men’s soccer team. Or maybe it was just a good chance to get away from the cows.
Whatever it was, the UC Davis men’s soccer team has been convinced to leave the gentle rolling hills and green pastures of its campus to take on the #5 ranked Gauchos tonight at Harder Stadium.
UCSB (13-2-1 overall, 6-2-0 in the Big West) will close out its non-conference season this week at home, hosting the Aggies tonight and Stanford on Saturday. The Gauchos are well aware of the importance of these games with the playoffs quickly approaching.
“The Stanford game is one which will help us out with seedings for NCAA playoffs,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “If we beat Stanford and lose to Davis though, it’s irrelevant that you beat Stanford.”
Tonight the Gauchos face the men of Davis (5-7-2 overall), who are coming off a win over Big West Conference member Riverside last Saturday.
UCSB enters tonight’s game touting a new all-time leader in career goals, senior forward Drew McAthy. With the game-winning penalty kick goal Saturday over Fullerton, McAthy broke the 21-year-old record of 46 career goals. Along with getting his name in the UCSB record books, McAthy’s goal Saturday also earned him a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week.
The Big West also recognized the record-breaking goal, bestowing player of the week honors on McAthy for the first time this season. The Gauchos are nearly perfect in games where McAthy scores, getting nine of their 13 wins with his help.
The Aggies can also boast a new career-scoring leader. Senior forward Ryan Shaw put two goals in the back of the net, including the game winner against the Highlanders, his 40th and 41st of his career, for a new school record. Like McAthy, Shaw also leads his team with 16 points on seven goals and two assists this season.
Shaw won’t be anything that the Gaucho defense can’t handle, though. After returning to goalie for the first time in two weeks, senior goalkeeper Danny Kenned posted his eighth solo shutout of the season Saturday at Fullerton.
Kennedy was helped by a rejuvenated backline that hasn’t allowed a shot on frame in two straight matches. Defenders senior Tony Lochhead, junior Pat Scott and freshman Andy Iro have helped the Gauchos hold their opponents scoreless in 10 of 16 matches, the fourth best shutout percentage in the nation.
“This week is important, especially with seeding. We have to face Davis [on] Thursday and hopefully we beat Davis and then get ready for Stanford [on] Saturday,” Kennedy said. “Every game is more important than the one we just played, and every game is one where we have to win.”