The #14 nationally ranked UCSB men’s soccer team takes its undefeated Big West record on the road this afternoon to face Fullerton.
The Gauchos (5-2-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big West) had trouble against the Titans last year, winning 1-0 on the road on a penalty kick and escaping with a 4-3 double-overtime victory at home.
“The problem with Fullerton is that they used to be the dominant team in the Big West until we came into the scene,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “When we play Fullerton, we get their best game. After their poor start, their only way to make the playoffs is to win the conference, and that starts with us.”
UCSB will be looking for senior striker Ivan Becerra to step up once again. Becerra leads the team with six goals on the year, having scored two goals in a game three times. Becerra notched two second-half goals in last week’s 3-1 win at Cal Poly.
Fullerton (2-5-1 overall) will be playing their first Big West match of the season. The Titans have won two of their last three, both wins coming in overtime over Air Force and UNLV.
The Titans have struggled to score goals thus far, netting only five in eight games and getting shut out five times. Good things happen when Fullerton does get on the scoreboard, though, considering they have earned a tie or a win in every match in which they have scored a goal.
“After the first eight games, some have been great and in some we didn’t execute as well as we should have,” said Vom Steeg. “This is due to new players as well as injuries. Every conference game is a [battle] and teams always play their best for us. But our team comes closer after these games.”
UCSB holds the top spot in the Big West standings, alongside Northridge. Fullerton sits in the middle, having yet to play a conference match. The Gauchos face Northridge on Saturday, a match that will be key in determining the Big West champion.
“I don’t think we’ll be looking ahead to Northridge,” Vom Steeg said. “We might be vulnerable to that if we were 8-0, but those losses are still fresh in our minds. We know that each conference game is a battle and our focus is on Wednesday.”
The Gauchos are still awaiting word as to when senior forward Jonathan Davis will rejoin the team. Authorities detained Davis last month after he was caught stealing textbooks from the UCSB Bookstore.
“It’s not an issue of if he will return, but of when,” Vom Steeg said. “We could know as soon as this afternoon, hopefully within the next few days.”