With three Big West games under their belts, the Gauchos have three shutout victories and sit atop the conference. They will look to keep a good thing going tomorrow afternoon on the road against UC Davis.

“It’s going to be wet; there’s going to be some pretty bad tackles and people slipping,” senior forward David Walker said.

To add to the innate appeal of a Thursday afternoon game in a downpour, this match figures to be a physical affair as well. In the last three meetings of these teams, a total of 28 cards (24 yellow, four red) have been issued. For those keeping score at home, that is around one bookable offense for every 10 minutes of play. And for Santa Barbara, card accumulation is certainly something to watch out for.

Defensive midfielder Luis Silva will have to sit out the Davis game due to receiving his fifth yellow card of the year against UC Riverside this weekend. The sophomore was not even the offender on the foul, but he mouthed off to the referee after the play and earned himself a one-game suspension. For this game, with the physical styles of play and rugged conditions, the team will have to be very careful to avoid such mistakes.

“Everyone knows how important it is to maintain composure out there,” Walker said, “especially in terms of not talking back to the ref.”

The Gauchos, at 9-2-1 and ranked #3 in the country, have had a very solid season thus far and are riding a 374 minute unscored-upon streak. Davis, meanwhile, sits at a disappointing 5-8-0 (2-2-0 in conference). Though they did notch a win against defending conference champion UC Irvine, the Aggies appear to be thoroughly outmatched against UCSB. That makes them all the more dangerous.

Santa Barbara’s two losses and one tie all came against unranked opponents in the afternoon. The Gauchos are undefeated in night games and have excelled against their best foes (especially a 3-0 drubbing of Indiana on national television). The games that have given them trouble are the off-matches; games where motivation may be hard to come by. Davis, the team says, should not be one of those games.

“I don’t think we’ll have a problem getting motivated, these wins are too big,” Walker said. “Our team’s old enough now to realize how important it is to come up with the win.”

Whether or not they will remains to be seen. Going against the Gauchos today is the absence of Silva, as well as recently injured freshman Michael Nonni. Nonni, who shares the team lead in goals with Walker at five, tweaked his knee in practice and is expected to be out for a couple weeks.

For Davis, senior midfielder Paul Marcoux will likely be the biggest threat against Santa Barbara. Marcoux is the team leader in points and goals and notched an assist in last season’s 2-0 Davis win in Harder Stadium. This year, though, he does not have Quincy Amarikwa to pass to. Amarikwa, who devastated the Gaucho back line last year, has moved on to the pro-ranks.

Kickoff for the match is Thursday at 3 p.m. in Davis. The Gauchos will not return to Harder Stadium until Saturday the 24th, in a home-fixture against Cal State Fullerton.