Onward the #14 UCSB men’s soccer team goes in their quest for a return to the College Cup – this time to face the most familiar of opponents.
After Saturday’s 2-0 win over San Diego State, UCSB (13-4-3) will travel to fellow Big West powerhouse #13 Northridge for the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“We want Northridge,” senior Nate Boyden said. “This is an opportunity for sweet revenge. We see them in our sleep and we know what we need to do.”
The Matadors (14-3-3) handed the Gauchos their only Big West loss of the season in early November by a 1-0 mark. The lone goal came after the Santa Barbara defense blocked two consecutive shots but were unable to clear the ball.
“In that game we definitely had our chances to score,” senior Bryan Byrne said. “We were all over them for the last 20 minutes.”
UCSB has struggled in Northridge, having lost their last three matches at the Matador Soccer Field. The Gauchos have not won at Northridge since the 2000 campaign.
“Its tough to play there because they have a smaller field and it’s a disadvantage because we are a passing team,” junior Kyle Reynish said. “We’re better in tight spaces than before with [Eric] Avila and [Eric] Frimpong and we’ll be better prepared than before.”
The Matadors, like the Gauchos, were well represented in the Big West All-Conference awards. Northridge freshman goalkeeper Kevin Guppy was named the conference’s Goalie of the Year and senior midfielder Daniel Paladini was selected as the Midfielder of the Year. It was Paladini who netted the only goal in their victory over the Gauchos this year.
UCSB has shown the ability to hold the lead, posting a 12-1 record when scoring first this year.
“Tim [Vom Steeg] is the sort of coach where if we get the lead early, he’ll make sure we don’t give it up,” Byrne said. “We just need to make the most of our opportunities.”
UCSB comes into the match having won three straight since their loss to Northridge, outscoring opponents 7-1 during the stretch. The Matadors fell to Irvine in their final Big West match and have since defeated Davis 5-0 before earning a first round bye.
“We’re a confident team, we’re a hot team,” Boyden said. “We’re playing for 90 minutes offensively and defensively. We’ve won tons of playoff games, and they have yet to win one.”
Byrne, who missed the opening round match after accumulating five yellow cards, will be back in the lineup against Northridge.
Kickoff is today at 1 p.m. at Northridge.