After what could be called a Cinderella story of a season, it’s no wonder that the men’s soccer team (17-2-1 overall, 8-2-0 in the Big West) won the nod for team of the year.
The Gauchos snagged their third Big West championship title in four years at the end of the regular season.
Despite being snubbed with the #9 seed for the NCAA playoffs, UCSB proved the selection committee wrong, advancing all the way to the national championship game against Indiana.
“It’s very exciting to get a recognition like this,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “It has been a great year for us, and it was made even more special by the support we received from students and the community … We’ve had success in the past couple of years and the players’ expectations got higher and higher, so it’s hard to imagine that a goal for our team would be to play for the National Championship. But it was in the back of our minds – especially the seniors’ minds.”
Although Santa Barbara fell 3-2 to the Hoosiers in penalty kicks after two overtimes, its climb to the top was an impressive feat for any team.
“Our season was four years of hard work with a lot of delayed gratification to finally reach the stage we did,” junior midfielder Nate Boyden said. “At the end of the day, everything we did was worth it and I’m glad I can share that with those players.”
In postseason play, UCSB beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2-1 in double overtime, making its way to its second consecutive appearance in the Sweet 16. UCSB pushed past North Carolina-Greensboro with a 1-0 shutout to advance to the Elite 8, where it defeated Duke 5-0 to make it to the national championship game.
“I was very confident in our coaching this year because I honestly believe that we had two of the best coaches in the nation,” Boyden said. “You don’t beat a team like Duke 5-0 in the semifinals of a national championship unless you have a better game plan and are more prepared – the coaching was a big testament to that. I give the coaches a lot of the credit for taking us where we went.”