After a rough three-game road swing, the UCSB men’s soccer team returns to Santa Barbara this weekend, hoping the friendly confines of Harder Stadium can provide more comfort than the road.
The #19 Gauchos (5-4 overall, 2-1-0 Big West) will try to end their two-game losing streak when they take on the University of Michigan at 7 tomorrow evening. The squad is coming off consecutive losses to UC Davis and Cal State Northridge and failed to find the back of the net in either contest.
“We have not put together a collective effort the last two games,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “If a game isn’t going well instead of pulling together, we start doing things individually that don’t help the group.”
The Wolverines (5-4-2 overall) come into Saturday’s match riding a three-game unbeaten streak, highlighted by a 2-2 draw against perennial power #20 Indiana. UCSB is the fifth ranked opponent Michigan has faced this year, as the Wolverines have posted a 1-2-1 record against them thus far.
Santa Barbara’s back line will have to contain freshman striker Peri Marosevic who leads the Michigan attack with five goals on the year. In its last match, the Wolverine offense blasted a school record 34 shots, but failed to put one in during a scoreless tie with the University of Detroit.
“Michigan is a typical Midwest team with big, strong, physical players with exceptional skill,” Vom Steeg said. “They draw and recruit well at a national level.”
After Wednesday’s card-filled fiasco in Northridge, UCSB will be undermanned as sophomore defender Kyle Kaveny, junior midfielder Evan Patterson and junior defender Greg Curry will all be unavailable due to ejections.
The Gauchos hope for a resurrection of their offense, which has struggled to take advantage of its opportunities over the past several games. Senior keeper Kyle Reynish also hopes to rebound from the Northridge debacle in which he allowed five goals after allowing only five total in the first eight games of the season.
“We need to regroup and come out with a really good effort,” Vom Steeg said. “We have a tough schedule, so it’s hard to regroup on the field.”
Before tomorrow night’s match, the Harder Stadium field will be dedicated to the Meredith family for their five-year support of the UCSB soccer program. The family’s donation helped the school resurface the pitch at Harder Stadium in 2001. The Merediths have also supported UCSB athletics by providing full scholarships in recent years.
“Of all that they have done for us, most important was that they stepped up when no one knew about UCSB soccer,” Vom Steeg said. “They gave us a chance to better recruit the top athletes.”
The return home should be beneficial for Santa Barbara as its record stands at 3-1 at Harder Stadium on the year.
“When things aren’t going well, there is nothing like the home crowd to turn it around,” Vom Steeg said.