Santa Barbara’s postseason hopes hit the road this weekend, as the #7 UCSB men’s soccer team heads east to face fifth-seeded Ohio State.
The Gauchos (13-3-4 overall) will be up against one of the hottest teams in the nation with the Big Ten Champion Buckeyes (14-3-5). Ohio State is currently riding a 12-game unbeaten streak and has been dominant defensively, allowing only three goals during the streak and posting five straight shutouts. Opponents have netted more than one goal just three times against the Buckeyes and senior goalkeeper Casey Latchem this season, with each occurrence coming early in the year.
“[Latchem] has been playing very, very well for them,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “It looks like a defensive game. We’re not familiar with their team and they aren’t familiar with our team and maybe that will lead to some goals. We haven’t seen each other’s players and aren’t used to what they do on the field and sometimes that can lead to goals.”
While the defense has been stellar, Ohio State’s offense leaves much to be desired. The squad has notched more than one goal on just six occasions this season, compared to 13 multi-goal performances by the Gauchos. The Buckeyes have scored just three goals in their past four contests, and will be facing a Santa Barbara defense that has posted six shutouts this year.
One advantage UCSB owns is on the sidelines, as Ohio State Head Coach John Bluem recruited Vom Steeg out of high school. Vom Steeg has proven to be a mastermind in terms of game planning – demonstrated emphatically in UCSB’s second round shutout of Washington – and his understanding of Bluem’s system will certainly help the Gauchos.
“He was the head coach when I played at UCSB when he was at Fresno State and they were a Big West team,” Vom Steeg said. “Obviously that was 15 years ago, but he hasn’t really changed his style. He loves skillful players and his teams are very physical. He’s been a little different in a part of the country where size and strength dominate.”
Santa Barbara has done well against the Big Ten Conference recently, defeating Michigan last year and Northwestern each of the past two years. UCSB showed it would not be phased during playoff road games last year, knocking off both Southern Methodist University and Old Dominion University while away from Harder Stadium during the NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos have posted a 6-1-2 mark on the road so far this season, winning their past four, three of which have been of the comeback variety.
“We went on the road and won at Davis, a very hard place, and won at Riverside, another place that is really hard to win at,” Vom Steeg said. “We’ve picked up some wins in some very hard places this year.”
The winner of this contest moves on to the quarterfinals to face the victor between Bradley – who took down perennial power fourth-seeded Indiana in penalty kicks in the second round – and 13-seed Maryland. Kickoff is slated for 10 a.m. on Sunday and can be heard on KCSB 91.9 FM and online at www.kcsb.org.