For the second time in three weeks, the #7 UCSB Gauchos (17-9 overall, 2-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) will take on the top team in the nation when they host #1 UC Berkeley (20-2 overall, 4-0 MPSF) on Sunday.
After upsetting #4 Stanford last Saturday, UCSB looks to complete the Bay Area sweep and have the opportunity to knock off the #1 team in the country; a chance they thought they had blown just two weeks ago. The #1 team at the time was USC who the Gauchos outplayed for two thirds of the contest, only to fall short leaving the team feeling like a golden opportunity had slipped away. Fast forward two weeks later and UCLA’s victory over USC puts Cal at the top spot heading into this weekend’s contest. The Golden Bears will present a different and more difficult match up than Stanford.
“They have a few good offensive threats and they are deep,” senior driver Ross Sinclair said. “They are more physical than Stanford. Bigger, faster, stronger. We have been conditioning hard all week in preparation for it to go to the end and possibly overtime. It’s definitely going to be an intense game that will go down to the wire.”
One of the offensive threats that the Gaucho defense will have to focus on is senior attacker Michael Sharf who is second in the conference with 3.29 goals per game. Senior goalie Mark Sheredy is second in the conference in goals against, allowing only 5.83 goals per contest.
To pull off consecutive upsets, UCSB will combat Cal with what has been their strength all year. The Gauchos have been able to combine senior leadership with young explosive talent and high quality depth to find success. Sinclair has proven to be the go-to-guy by leading the team with 46 goals, 29 assists and 75 points. Fellow senior Rick Wright has been strong all year by allowing 7.7 goals a game. Co-MPSF player of the week sophomore utility Zsombor Vincze has recorded two consecutive hat tricks and leads the Gauchos in earned ejections with 36. Freshman utility Milos Golic has taken the conference by storm with his play in limited action. In just 17 of 26 contests, Golic is tied for the team lead in assists with 29, has registered 39 goals and 68 points.
Despite the hype, Sinclair is not ready to anoint this game as the season’s biggest, with the playoffs quickly approaching.
“I don’t know if it’s the biggest, but it’s definitely big,” said Sinclair. “For me personally it’s a huge game, being my last home game as a senior. All the seniors, we are all fired up.”
Sunday’s game is scheduled for noon at Campus Pool, however due to ongoing repairs there is a chance that the game will be moved to the Recreation Center Pool.