The UCSB men’s club soccer team returns to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association Collegiate Soccer Sport Club Championship this week, looking to take home the trophy for the first time. The tournament, held in Pensacola, Florida, features 24 teams from across the United States, all vying for the title of best college club soccer team in the land.
The Gauchos (10-0-1 overall) will be looking to advance further than last year, when they were sent home in the round of eight. The squad is very optimistic, as one might expect from a team that has given up a grand total of two goals on the year. Junior midfielder and team captain John Walker certainly sees a lot of confidence in his teammates.
“This year we’re feeling good about our chances, especially after the undefeated league season,” Walker said. “We expect to do very well, and we want to come back to UCSB with a national championship.”
During the regular season, the Gauchos tore apart their opposition, winning all seven games against teams in their tier and recording three wins and a tie in their other games. UCSB outscored their opponents 31-2 for an astounding 29-point goal differential. To compare, the second highest goal differential in their league was posted by San Diego State at 4. Santa Barbara completely dominated all other California clubs this year, and now it is looking to extend that to a national level.
Action starts Thursday for Santa Barbara, as the squad takes on the two other teams from Augustana and Texas Tech in their three-team pool – one of eight pools total. After Thursday’s games, one team from each pool will be eliminated, and the others will advance to the round of 16 on Friday. At this point, the tournament will transform into a single elimination bracket for the championship. If the Gauchos survive pool play, they will have a possible two games on Friday, and a single loss could end their season. Friday’s winners will face off in the semifinals and eventually the finals on Saturday at 2 p.m.