Revenge is oh so sweet.
The first-ranked men’s soccer team has only lost two times all year, once to Northridge and once to Irvine. It already erased the loss to the Matadors on Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory and clinched the Big West title. Tonight the Gauchos will travel to Orange County to prove that the loss to the Anteaters on Oct. 22 was merely an aberration.
“I think we’re going to be real excited to play a team that’s beaten us,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said.
Vom Steeg downplayed the revenge involved, but senior defender Tony Lochhead admitted that retribution is on their minds.
“There’s definitely a little revenge factor; they came here and beat us on our own field,” Lochhead said. “We wouldn’t mind getting some payback.”
The last time these two squads hooked up, Irvine scored the game’s only goal on a fluke play at Harder Stadium. On a Gaucho corner kick, three Santa Barbara players inexplicably fell down, which led to an Anteater two-on-one breakaway and the match’s only goal. Vom Steeg described the play after the game as just a “messed-up play.”
UCSB was also without senior goalkeeper and co-captain Danny Kennedy for the match.
Although the Big West has already been won, tonight’s game still bears much significance.
“It’s our last game before the playoffs,” Vom Steeg said. “I think it’s very important.”
A loss in Irvine also wouldn’t look incredibly appealing to the selection committee that will decide the seedings for the NCAA Tournament following the completion of the regular season.
“This should be a good one; they want to prove themselves, we want to prove ourselves,” Lochhead said.
In years past, Irvine has come out using a 4-4-2 scheme, whereas last time they played Santa Barbara they switched it up, flustering the Gaucho attack.
“It made it really difficult to score; it seemed like they were playing for the draw,” Lochhead said. “If they come out like that again, we’ll be ready this time.”
UCSB will be at full strength, which will be an oddity considering that throughout most of the conference schedule it was missing key components due to injuries and suspensions. Most importantly for the Gauchos, this one’s all about building momentum.
“We want to go out with a bang,” Lochhead said.